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Friday, December 8, 2023

Life + Arts

Professor creates app to detect cancer

Wondering if that mole on your back is abnormal, the fear of getting it checked and finding out, and the money wasted on a visit to the doctor because you were overly concerned — UH professor George Zouridakis has helped to eliminate all this and more. 

Courtesy of Jeannie Kever

Zouridakis is credited with developing DermoScreen — a smartphone application that assists in detecting the early stages of skin disease.  DermoScreen works with a dermoscope attachment. The lense illuminates and scans suspicious looking skin lesions for signs of trouble. After countless tests, DermoScreen has achieved an 85 percent success rate.

Zouridakis originally envisioned DermoScreen as a miniature circuit board that would fit inside a handheld dermoscope and process in real time when he first began the project 10 years ago. Before his work at UH, Zouridakis’ colleague at the University of Texas Medical School shared an early dermoscope device his company had created.  Zouridakis immediately had a vision to improve the basic device into something more sophisticated.  What he imagined was a device that would immediately upload the images onto a smartphone rather than a PC.

After the development of the iPhone, his vision became much bigger. He planned for the app to be utilized by general practice physicians, healthcare personnel and even consumers once the app was fully developed.

“It can help individuals determine whether or not a mole on their body needs further medical attention by a physician,” Zouridakis said.

Although DermoScreen is much less expensive than seeing a physician, it is not intended to be used as a diagnosis tool. The app is currently being perfected, and has not yet been released to the public.

Zouridakis said that non-experts should not use the app as a method of diagnosis. DermoScreen should alert the user that there is something suspicious about the lesion. The user should then contact a physician, who will make a final decision on whether further investigation is necessary.

DermoScreen has competition, but what sets it apart is that it closely follows the diagnostic criteria expert dermatologists use.

The DermoScreen team has recently partnered with the University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center to conduct prospective studies and validate the technology against the gold standard of medical practice.

Dr. Ana Ciurea, assistant professor of dermatology at the MD Anderson Cancer Center, said Dr. Zouridakis’ work is promising.

“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,” Ciurea said

Zouridakis is very proud of the work he and his team have put into creating DermoScreen. Countless hours were spent during the last 10 years on this project, and Zouridakis attributes much of its success to his team.

“It is important to reiterate that this has been a team effort and the result of very hard work by several extremely talented graduate students and colleagues,” Zouridakis said.

As for the future, Zouridakis plans to develop other apps similar to DermoScreen that can detect early stages of various diseases.

“We envision a plug-in for melanoma, another for Buruli ulcer, a third one for some ocular disease like glaucoma, and so on,” Zouridakis said.

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