Skin in the game

Microbiopsy device offers better skin cancer detection hope

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Technology allows dermatologists to collect samples without local anaesthetic or sutures.


A skin microbiopsy device developed by researchers at the University of Queensland, that takes tissue samples smaller than 0.5mm in diameter could change the way skin cancers and other skin conditions are diagnosed and monitored.

The technology allows dermatologists to rapidly collect samples of skin without the use of local anaesthetic or sutures.

It will undergo final product development after it was licensed to Melbourne-based Trajan Scientific and Medical in a deal struck by UQ's commercialisation company, UniQuest.

The device was invented by researchers associated with UQ's Faculty of Medicine Dermatology Research Centre, including Professor H. Peter Soyer, Professor Tarl Prow (now University of SA) and Dr Alex Ansaldo.

Professor Soyer said biopsies were commonly performed to diagnose suspected skin cancers and inflammatory skin conditions and the process relied on routine histopathology for diagnostic interpretation.

"Conventional skin biopsies are usually 2-4mm in diameter, which means local anaesthetic is required and one or two sutures needed to close the wound," he said.

"By contrast, the microbiopsy device being developed is relatively painless and leaves a tiny puncture site in the skin that heals in days.

"It also allows clinicians to analyse the molecular profile of a potential skin cancer or an inflammatory skin condition, which is significant because it opens the door to biomarker profiling, which dramatically improves diagnostic information for doctors, and will, in the future, lead to personalised medicine treatments."

Professor Soyer said the less-invasive device would also allow dermatologists to better monitor the progression of suspected skin cancers and other skin conditions over time, without the need for more invasive conventional biopsies.

The licence agreement follows an evaluation partnership announced by UniQuest and Trajan in 2017.

Trajan chief scientific officer Dr Andrew Gooley said he was excited the parties had reached the exclusive licence agreement to further develop and take the microbiopsy device to market.

UniQuest chief executive Dean Moss said it was fantastic to see UQ technology in the hands of an Australian-based global company like Trajan.

"As Australian skin cancer rates continue to increase, it's reassuring to see a University of Queensland innovation commercialised to potentially support early detection and improve treatment outcomes for patients," Dr Moss said.