World-first, cutting-edge laser technology being used by Queensland researchers will revolutionise the detection and treatment of skin cancer, saving lives and cutting treatment costs.
Science Minister Ian Walker said the laser imaging system, developed by researchers at the University of Queensland’s School of Information Technology and Electrical Engineering and the University of Leeds, would help deliver on the Government’s election promise to revitalise frontline health services.
“We live in the skin cancer capital of the world where one in two Queenslanders will develop skin cancers in their lifetime,” Mr Walker said.
“Early detection is crucial and this ground-breaking research, supported by the Queensland Government, will assist this.
“Scientists have built a prototype terahertz laser imaging system, the first of its kind in Australia.
“It has huge potential to revolutionise skin cancer treatment as it takes a more accurate picture of the skin and what is going on under the surface, reducing the need for invasive surgery.”
Mr Walker said the research was based on the terahertz region, a part of the electromagnetic spectrum that until recently had been almost impossible to work with.
“The fact that researchers have been able to master this region is a tremendous scientific achievement,” he said.
Lead researcher Dr Yah Leng Lim said current methods for detecting and diagnosing skin cancer were based on a visual examination by a GP and a biopsy.
“If cancer is detected, treatment usually involves the surgical removal of the lesions,” Dr Lim said.
“The problem is that the visual examination is not always perfect. Treatment options, such as surgery, can overestimate the tumour extent, leading to the removal of healthy as well as damaged tissue.
“With a medical imaging system based on a terahertz laser, you can get a more accurate picture of what’s going on beneath the skin surface. The other big advantage is that it is harmless to humans.”
Dr Lim has received $120,000 in Queensland Government funding, with a further $60,000 to be provided over the next year.