Rapid and accurate skin cancer detection

Project Details


Skin cancers account for about a third of all cancer diagnoses. Every year, according to the World Health Organisation, an estimated 132,000 cases of malignant melanoma are diagnosed across the world, whilst the corresponding figure for non-melanomas is 2–3 million. Cancer Research UK says that, in the UK, one in every 55 individuals is expected to develop malignant melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, in their lifetime. They also record that new cases of skin cancers have consistently been on the rise since the 1970s, and are projected to continue to increase.

This project aimed to develop a technology based on microneedles and molecular biomarkers, to facilitate rapid diagnosis and patient monitoring in skin cancers.

Skin cancers, including melanoma and non-melanomas, are diagnosed by physical examination of skin lesions. However, accurate diagnosis can be challenging, and often requires a skin biopsy or excision for histological analysis. The process usually takes weeks or months, including waiting times for referrals, histological results and monitoring visits. On the other hand, microneedles are microscopic projections, typically <1 mm long, that can be inserted into the skin painlessly. Using microneedles, we have shown that multiple skin antigens can be detected simultaneously within hours, without needing a biopsy.

Key findings

The development of the rapid diagnostic device empowers clinicians to make rapid clinical decisions at various stages of skin cancer diagnosis and monitoring, to ultimately improve the quality of care for an increasing patient population.

Ng KW, Lau WM, Williams AC (2015) Towards pain-free diagnosis of skin diseases through multiplexed microneedles: biomarker extraction and detection using a highly sensitive blotting method. Drug Delivery and Translational Research 5:387–396. doi: 10.1007/s13346-015-0231-57.
Effective start/end date1/10/1430/09/17


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