A Mayo Clinic-led study found that protective mastectomies that preserve the nipple and surrounding skin prevent breast cancer as effectively as more invasive surgeries for those with BRCA. (Fotolia)
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Minimally Invasive Microbiopsy Could Revolutionise Skin Tests

Skin biopsy is one of the most essential techniques in dermatology for accurate diagnosis of neoplastic or inflammatory skin diseases through histopathological assessment. The technique is performed under local anaesthetic by trained medical personnel, normally a dermatologist, to remove a skin sample 2–4 mm in diameter that is then preferably sent to a dermatopathologist for histopathological diagnosis.

With at least two in three Australians diagnosed with skin cancer before the age of 70, monitoring moles and skin is vital in detecting skin cancer early for a generation of people who spent much of their upbringing in the sun (often with little to no protection).

To meet the massive unmet need in this area, Research Professor at UniSA’s Future Industries Institute, Professor Tarl Prow led the team that has created a new needle device that will revolutionise how doctors test patients for rashes and diseases.

The innovation for this device comes from the idea of a diabetic test. We can easily take small skin samples which makes it much easier to use on children and allows us to take multiple samples over time to monitor a patient’s situation,” Prof Prow says. “Given a standard biopsy is a significant procedure, we wanted to help make that process easier.

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With many parasitic diseases in Africa, where people don’t have access to a hospital, researchers at Hebrew University undertook a study in northern Ethiopia testing hundreds of children and adults using the device,” he says.

Skin cancer being more prevalent in Australia, doctors can spend up a significant amount of time checking a patient’s skin (including moles and pink spots). The team aims to develop cancer biomarkers, so the device can take samples and evaluate (and reveal) the results instantly. With clinical trials (unrelated to skin cancer) in the final stages, the team is monitoring feedback with thousands of devices already sold worldwide and is patented in the US, Australia and Europe.

We are planning to test the efficacy and safety for microbiopsy in skin cancer diagnosis that will start in early 2019 so some patients may be asked to be a part of this study. We hope to launch the approved diagnostic test in 2023,” Dr Prow says.

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