Arizona companies get $1.2 million cancer grant

December 18, 2008

By hammersmith

[Source: Arizona Republic, Ken Alltucker] – Defense contractor Raytheon wants to parlay its knowledge of remote satellite systems into a new system capable of accurately and consistently detecting skin cancer.

Raytheon has teamed with the Arizona Cancer Center on a research project to build an automated imaging system that could create a standard way to detect cancerous skin lesions.

Researchers have spent about $1.3 million to develop the project over the past three years. Science Foundation Arizona has approved a $1.2 million grant to move the research forward.

Now, doing a whole-body scan for early detection of skin cancer is an inexact science. One method consists of doctors comparing multiple photographs of a patient’s skin over time. So a diagnosis may vary, depending on a doctor’s interpretation of the images. If a patient has dozens of moles, a harried doctor may miss a potentially dangerous skin lesion altogether.

“Being able to (diagnose) a lesion accurately, in a short period of time, is not an easy thing to do,” said Dr. Clara Curiel, a dermatology professor at University of Arizona and a director at the Arizona Cancer Center.

Curiel and Karleen Seybold, a systems-engineering senior manager at Raytheon, have led a team of about 13 engineers and researchers who are working on a system that would automate the process.

Raytheon engineers are working to adapt remote-sensing algorithms that can lead to early skin-cancer detection. Researchers have a prototype of the imaging station that could be used with the Raytheon-developed algorithm to help doctors track skin cancer.

Researchers envision developing an imaging station similar to a metal cage with different bars that could hold cameras, which would snap images of a person’s body and analyze the skin.