Early diagnosis of Melanoma

Terahertz imaging may be a useful tool in the early diagnosis of melanomas, allowing earlier treatment and improved survival rate.

Melanoma is the most serious form of skin cancer and the incidence rate is increasing every year. Currently initial diagnosis is by looking at a patient’s clinical history, examination by a dermatologist and the use of a dermatoscope, which is a special magnifier to study skin lesions. When diagnosed early, malignant melanomas can be treated and 95% of people will live for 5 years or more. It is vital to research new ways of identifying malignant tumours as early as possible.

Using a safe imaging technique to diagnose melanoma

This HOPE funded project will look at developing a new diagnostic tool for the early detection of malignant melanoma skin cancer. The proposed system is based on terahertz imaging of suspected melanomas, and will involve scanning the affected region of the patient’s skin. This safe imaging technique is sensitive in distinguishing between healthy and cancer cells. A software will be used to help in the decision-making process. This non-invasive tool would be used before operating on the cancerous tissue.

The funding allows the development of the methods to analyse terahertz imaging, and an investigation into what information this can give. From this work, it is believed that the terahertz imaging could highlight regions of the tumour not detectable by the naked eye. If these regions contain cells that may cause problems during treatment, they can be removed in surgery to prevent these problems. There will be significant benefits to patients if the technology can accurately detect the early changes in melanoma development before it has progressed to a more advanced stage.

The award of £75,000 was awarded to Prof Geoff Smith as a 3-year PhD studentship for Martin Muller-Holtz. The project will be a collaborative study between De Montfort University and the University Hospitals Leicester NHS Trust.

More information (links open in a new tab):


Melanoma diagnosis

Terahertz applications in cancer