Objectives & Results

The incidence of skin cancer in Europe, US, and Australia is rising rapidly. One in five will develop some form of skin cancer during the lifetime. A person has a 1:33 chance to develop melanoma, the most aggressive skin cancer. Melanoma is the second most common cancer in women aged 20-29, and the sixth most common cancer in men and women. In 2007, more than 1 million new cases were diagnosed in the US alone. About 90% of skin cancers are caused by ultraviolet (UV) sun light. The World Health Organization estimates that 60,000 people will die this year from too much sun: 48,000 from melanoma and 12,000 from other skin cancer.

A significant improvement of the current diagnostic tools of dermatologists is required in order to identify dermal disorders at a very early stage as well as to monitor directly the effects of treatment.

The SKINSPECTION consortium developed a non-invasive multimodal hybrid imaging system with the capability to perform non-invasive high resolution three-dimensional clinical

(i) two-photon imaging with time-correlated single photon detection,
(ii) autofluorescence lifetime imaging,
(iii) high-frequency acoustical imaging, and
(iv) opto-acoustical imaging using ultrashort near infrared (NIR) laser pulses.

This novel multimodal approach will provide a wide-field acoustic/optoacoustic view with quantitative depth information of the dermatological lesion as well as a close optical look into particular intratissue compartments with quantitative hyperspectral information and subcellular resolution. The project will provide a novel unique tool for early diagnosis and treatment control of skin cancer and skin disease and thus significantly contribute to the improvement of the European health care system.

The first phase was completed and was dedicated to the detailed elaboration and evaluation of the SKINSPECTION concept with regard to all technological aspects as well as implications of later implementation in the medical routine. Potential application scenarios and impact of the development were addressed and will be further clarified on the basis of the systems clinical evaluation. Based on this comprehensive study, a detailed development plan was generated. In this plan technological key issues were described and targeted according their development risk, multidisciplinarity and the complementary competences of the consortium.

In the second phase of the project all work packages dealing with the technological development were pursued. All technological milestones were reached by setting up base systems for multiphoton imaging and defining and developing the new imaging modalities of high resolution ultrasound, optoacoustics and fluorescence lifetime imaging.

All imaging modality components were developed, tested and integrated into the multimodal SKINSPECTION system. The certification of all components of SKINSPECTION for in vivo use on humans in the clinical study was achieved.

In the third and final phase of the project, the clinical validation of the SKINSPECTION platform was performed. For this purpose, the certified multimodal platform was installed at the clinical sites and ex-vivo/in-vivo analysis of tissue samples was performed.

In total, over 800 acquisitions have been performed from different tissue samples by the clinical project partner University of Modena and Imperial College. The acquired data were analysed according to the diagnostic procedure and the algorithms defined earlier in the project. This has allowed to identify cell descriptors related to FLIM signals or the morphology that could be correlated to a disease status with high sensitivity and specificity. Ultrasound imaging further gave a macroscopic insight into the subcutaneous structure of lesions. Finally, the newly developed optoacoustic imaging modality has shown to be highly suitable for high-sensitivity imaging of subcutaneous microvasculature.

In summary, the different imaging modalities have successfully been developed and implemented into a combined multimodal multiscale imaging platform. The clinical evaluation phase has highlighted the benefits of the proposed techniques for early diagnosis of skin diseases.


Please find detailed results in the >> SKINSPECTION publications.