Skin cancer is one of the most common types of cancer and, in Sweden, malignant melanoma is the most increasing of all cancer types. Researchers at Malmö University want to develop a cost-effective and non-invasive diagnostics tool in the form of a plaster.

Approximately 50 per cent of those seeking medical attention with potentially sick skin have minor surgical procedure to remove skin that is then examined — sometimes completely unnecessarily. Biopsies costs many millions for the health care sector and mean anxious waiting periods for patients. Researchers hope the diagnostics plaster would be less expensive and provide immediate results.

“We imagine a plaster, or an equivalent, which is placed on the area of skin suspected to be developing cancer in order to collect molecules for analysis, says Professor Tautgirdas Ruzgas. He, along with Professors Johan Engblom and Anette Gjörloff Wingren and are managing the project together with additional researchers and industry partners.

“We are hoping it will be a lot easier to detect skin cancer at an early stage"

Professor Tautgirdas Ruzgas

The team is in the process of identifying molecules that only can be analysed on sick or injured skin, not healthy — they are one year into the project which is due to be completed in 2021.

“We are hoping it will be a lot easier to detect skin cancer at an early stage", Ruzgas says.

At the moment their focus is understanding what level of molecules can be determined to be sick, injured or malignant. The researchers are establishing methods to analyse small concentrations of molecules in a reliable way. The next step is examining patient samples.

The goal is to produce a prototype ready for clinical testing.

Text: Ellen Albertsdottir