A breakthrough innovation for diagnosing
lymph node metastases

Melanoma diagnosis: currently highly invasive and radioactive

Melanoma is the fastest growing and fifth most common cancer, posing a substantial health and economic burden. The diagnostic standard in melanoma is a biopsy of the primary tumor followed by a surgical removal and histological assessment of the sentinel lymph nodes (SLN). Detection of SLNs is performed via lymphoscintigraphy, following injection of the radioactive compound Technetium (99mTc).

SLN evaluation is critical in melanoma staging, since the SLN status is the best indicator of overall patient survival. However, the surgical extirpation is highly invasive and complication-prone, while the histological evaluation of SLN is known to have high false negative rates and typically yields a cancer detection rate of only 15-20%.

Minimizing the diagnostic burden using MSOT: radiation-free SLN detection followed by a non-invasive nodal assessment

A recent clinical study showed that MSOT has the potential to improve two critical process steps in melanoma diagnosis:

  1. Radiation-free SLN detection: The clinically approved dye indocyanine green (ICG) is injected peritumorally to identify the SLN, overcoming the need for radioactive 99mTc. MSOT can identify the presence of ICG in SLN at several centimeters depth.
ICG signal in SLN overlaid on ultrasound background image

SLN assessment with MSOT

  1. Non-invasive SLN assessment: Following ICG-based SLN detection, MSOT can also be used to non-invasively determine the nodal status and rule out the presence of metastases. The basis for this assessment is the detection of melanin in the SLN. The absence of melanin in the SLN effectively rules out a metastasis and could spare the patient from surgical SLN extirpatio

Based on these promising initial results and following further validation, MSOT could potentially reduce patient burden from radiation and surgery as well as reduce the high false negative rates of SLN biopsy, thereby potentially reducing patient morbidity.


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