Alumni Update | Issue Eight 2014

New screening technologies could save skin cancer surgery

A reliable method for diagnosing skin cancer without the
need for a biopsy may be just around the corner thanks to cutting edge research at the University of South Australia.

The Therapeutics and Pharmaceutical Science research group in the Sansom Institute for Health Research, led by Professor Michael Roberts, is investigating the great
medical opportunities offered by our epidermis.

“The skin acts as an interface between what’s in our bodies and the environment,” Professor Roberts said.
Confocal image from the Sansom Institute's Therapeutic and Pharmaceutical Science Research Concentration Group
“It also has significant therapeutic potential from the delivery of new drugs to diagnosis through the skin.”

New technologies and 3D imaging tools obtained by Professor Roberts and his team have opened the doors to a greater understanding of our largest organ, including new opportunities to non-invasively diagnose and treat skin cancer.

The team is investigating the use of highly focussed laser imaging to look through the skin to detect tell-tale signs of cancerous cells.

The research, which is showing success in mouse models of melanoma, is enabled by Zeiss LSM710 and Lucid Inc. VivaScope confocal laser scanning microscopes.

These state-of-the-art imaging facilities, located at the City East campus and the Basil Hetzel Institute at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital, can provide a non-invasive optical biopsy of the skin at a highly sensitive cellular resolution.

When used in combination with specific fluorescent dyes, the imaging enables the boundaries of the cancerous cells to be more accurately determined prior to surgery.

“Deep skin autofluorescence is a major step forward for skin cancer diagnosis,” Professor Roberts said.

“Patients could be referred to dermatology clinics for non-invasive imaging of suspicious lesions and would therefore avoid the need for unnecessary biopsies.”

More than 200 guests at the University of South Australia’s Successful Ageing Seminar last week heard about Professor Roberts’ research interests, which also includes determining how, when and where drugs, dyes and nanoparticles go when absorbed through the skin.

If you would like to learn more about ground-breaking research underway at the University of South Australia, you can join the mailing list for the Successful Ageing Seminar here.

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