Dr. Richard Langley
Dalhousie Medical School
The deadly skin cancer known as melanoma can be extremely difficult to detect. Even specialists can’t always tell cancerous lesions from ordinary moles – especially in the early stages – and fail to remove them. Yet if melanoma is caught early enough, it’s almost always completely curable. If it’s not caught and removed when it’s barely skin deep, it spreads throughout the body. The results are often fatal.
Dermatologist Dr. Richard Langley is determined to bring down melanoma’s deadly toll. Director of Research in Dalhousie’s Division of Dermatology, Dr. Langley helped develop a revolutionary way to detect melanoma at its earliest stages, without surgically removing the lesion for laboratory analysis.
Dr. Langley is using the only in vivo‚ confocal laser scanning microscope in Canada to see if he can accurately diagnose melanoma in living skin. “This microscope is so powerful, it allows me to see individual cells and blood movement in the lesion, without removing it and causing damage or pain,” he explains. Dr. Langley is now testing his technique in a clinical trial, examining patient’s lesions under the microscope before they’re removed, then sending the lesions to the lab for biopsy.
If his microscope results line up with the biopsy results, Dr. Langley will have found a fast and reliable tool for diagnosing early melanoma.
“Our results are very promising so far,” Dr. Langley says. “The confocal microscope could ultimately be used worldwide not only for early diagnosis of melanoma, but also to prevent the unnecessary removal of benign lesions.”