Skip to main content
Image relating to Trial begins on trailblazing technology that could revolutionise skin cancer treatment

Trial begins on trailblazing technology that could revolutionise skin cancer treatment

A trailblazing trial that could revolutionise diagnosis and treatment of skin cancer is under way at University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire (UHCW) NHS Trust.

Developed at the University of Warwick, a first-of-its-kind skinometer aims to detect how far cancers extend under the skin, giving surgeons crucial information that could significantly cut operating times.

Preliminary testing of the scanner has begun at University Hospital, although it is currently only for research purposes and results are not shared with participants.

Professor Joe Hardwicke, UHCW skin cancer surgeon, said: "Some skin cancers can be below the skin that we can't actually see, so when we do remove them surgically, occasionally a little bit can be left behind.

"The hope with this technology is that we can be more accurate in our surgery and remove more of the cancers on the first occasion.”

The skinometer produces tiny pulses of light from the terahertz part of the spectrum, which strike the skin’s surface and bounce off, with the waveforms of the reflected light showing how far the skin cancer has spread.

It is also designed to accurately indicate moisture levels and how the skin reacts to different moisturisers, aiding the development of more effective, skin-type-specific sun creams.

This exciting study is also looking whether the skinometer may also be useful in assessing how effectively we treat dry skin conditions, like psoriasis, with moisturisers.

Professor Emma MacPherson, from Warwick’s Department of Physics, which has led the research said: “Skin cancer rates have increased rapidly in the UK, with more than 16,000 new cases every year.

“As well as helping prevention by aiding sunscreen development, the new skinometer will speed up the treatment pathway, achieving better outcomes, reducing patient stress and making more effective use of NHS resources.

“It could potentially enter clinical use within five years and, beyond that timeframe, could eventually become a feature of GP surgeries.

“My vision is that ultimately the technology can also be extended to benefit detection of a variety of different cancers such as breast and colon cancers.”

Funding of £653,000 has been provided by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), part of UK Research and Innovation, with additional support from Cancer Research UK.

Professor Dame Lynn Gladden, EPSRC Executive Chair, added: “Engineering and physical sciences research plays a key role in developing new healthcare technologies that can help us live healthier for longer. 

“This new tool not only has the potential to improve sunscreens to protect us in the sun but could also detect how far skin cancers have spread under the skin, thereby enabling faster, more effective treatments.” 

Share this story

Latest stories