A University of Houston professor created the app called DermoScreen that could provide inexpensive melanoma screening by simply taking photo of a suspicious mole or lesion.
George Zouridakis has worked on the project since 2005, moving it to an application for the iPhone with the goal to provide quick screening in rural areas or in the developing world, where specialty medical care generally isn’t available.
Early testing found the device to be accurate about 85% of the time, which is similar to the accuracy rate for dermatologists and more accurate than primary care physicians. Patients would be referred for follow-up if the lesion were suspected to be cancerous.
DermoScreen could provide inexpensive melanoma screening by simply taking photo of a suspicious mole or lesion.Aside from the iPhone, users of this app are also required to connect a dermoscope attachment, a special magnifying lens, which costs about $500 and provides special illumination of the area being photographed.
DermoScreen could be commercialized soon and has already won the $60,000 Grand Prize at the 2013 California Dreamin’ National Business Plan Competition and successfully pitched it in competitions around the country. But Zouridakis wanted to wait, both to pursue other diagnostic uses for the technology and to ensure that it was as accurate as possible.
According to Dr. Ana Ciurea, assistant professor of dermatology at MD Anderson, the project is in the early stages. “Our research with Dr. Zouridakis on his promising iPhone app will focus on evaluating its use for risk assessment and as a screening tool for early detection of melanomas,” she said. “We are in early stages of planning and approval for this project, but such an application, if validated, has the potential for widespread use to ultimately improve patient care.”
A $412,500 grant from the National Institutes of Health allowed testing of the device’s ability to screen for Buruli ulcer, a flesh-eating bacterial disease, in Africa.
Meanwhile, the team filed for a patent for the software and related technology used to diagnose melanoma, which develops when skin cells become abnormal and multiply, usually because of too much exposure to the sun.
Zouridakis said the program is “an intersection” of engineering, physics, biology, computer science and medicine.