COLUMBIA, Mo. — One person dies every hour from melanoma skin cancer in the United States, according to the American Cancer Society. A technique known as photoacoustics can find some forms of melanoma even if only a few cancerous cells exist, but a recent study by University of Missouri researchers found that the technique was limited in its ability to identify other types of cancer. Attaching markers, called enhancers, to cancer cells could improve the ability of photoacoustics to find other types of cancer and could save lives thanks to faster diagnoses, but the technique is in its early stages.
“Eventually, a photoacoustic scan could become a routine part of a medical exam,” said Luis Polo-Parada, assistant professor of pharmacology and physiology and resident investigator at the MU Dalton Cardiovascular Research Center. “The technique doesn’t use X-rays like current methods of looking for cancer. It could also allow for much earlier detection of cancer. Now, a cancerous growth is undetectable until it reaches approximately one cubic centimeter in size. Photoacoustics could potentially find cancerous growths of only a few cells. Unfortunately, our research shows that, besides some cases of melanoma, the diagnostic use of photoacoustics still has major limitations. To overcome this problem, the use of photoacoustic enhancers like gold, carbon nanotubes or dyed nanoparticles is needed.” (more…)