Celebrating Spartans: Cancer Laser


EAST LANSING, MI (WLNS) – An MSU professor’s smart laser will change the way doctors detect skin cancer.

This laser has been in the making for years and Jim Geyer went over to MSUs chemistry building to check out exactly how it works.

“What we will do is start right here where the biopsy scare was right here.”

Last November a biopsy was done on a small patch of skin on Jim Geyer’s ear after his dermatologist said it looked suspicious.

“We will go back and forth until the cancer is all gone.”

Two weeks later it was diagnosed as skin cancer and was removed five weeks later.

That process could have been shorter with the use of a smart laser.

“I have been working on applications of ultrafast lasers starting in 2001 when, at that time, it was more conceptual – what could be possible,” said Marcos Dantus, Distinguished Professor, Michigan State University.

Fifteen years later, thanks to the work of Professor Marcos Dantus, the possible is now real and the goal of detecting skin cancer without an invasive biopsy is within reach.

“One of the things we’re most interested in is to have a system that, if the dermatologist has some doubt and sees a mole or something, that they can immediately put that piece of skin, of course without cutting it, they can just bring the microscope and look at it on the spot and, at that point, they can see what kind of cancer, because there are at least three major types of skin cancers, how deep it is, and how urgent is the surgery and just being able to do that on your first visit to the doctor would cut out from two weeks to one month.”

“Now we’re working on this detection of cancer and it’s looking like the technologies are going very well.”

Professor Dantus showed me how the laser could see below the surface of the skin using a tomato as an example.

“This microscope can see individual cells and not only do we see what’s on the surface, but this laser is able to have a focal plane inside of the tissue.”

Clinical tests are already underway at the University of Illinois and UC-Irvine with help from the laser developed at MSU.

“The laser that we developed here has a better than 80-percent greater depth resolution than the one that is being tested at the University of California-Irvine and that’s why they wanted to know if we could bring the laser. So my student took the laser and they were really impressed.”

It won’t be long before smart laser technology is available to dermatologists to use in their own office as the preferred way to look at suspicious cells.

And as someone who has had skin cancer and had it treated – there’s and one thing that every doctor and patient want to hear:

“It works every time, and it doesn’t cause us harm.”

The laser is just in clinical trials right now at two locations, but the goal is to have the laser available at all dermatology offices across the nation.

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