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Melanoma detection sees 3D advancement with laser, sound imaging

April 6, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
Every eight minutes, someone in the United States will be diagnosed with melanoma.

"Your mind goes all different places, like how is this going to affect my life?" said melanoma survivor Megan Brinker. Brinker was told she had stage one melanoma.

"It wasn't anything that looked to me like it was really bad or anything," she said.

Early detection was key. Studies show if caught early, melanoma can be stopped in its tracks. And now, surgery to find it is going 3D.

"Using our technology, we can see the tumor as well as the surrounding blood vessels," said Dr. Younan Xia, a biomedical engineer

Photoacoustic tomography uses laser light and sound waves to create a 3D image of the cancer inside the body.

Tiny gold nanocages show a contrast between malignant and normal tissue. For more aggressive melanoma, doctors are testing a new compound that triggers cancer cells to self-destruct.

"What we manage to do is trick them into thinking they are being attacked or infected by a virus," said Dr. Maria Soengas, a dermatologist at the Spanish National Cancer Center Research Institute in Madrid, Spain.

Brinker was one of the lucky ones. She's not one of the 10,000 people melanoma kills every year, and these two medical advances could catch and cure even more cases fast.

Researchers believe this type of 3D imaging will be invaluable for detecting and treating a variety of cancers, including breast and prostate.

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