Lihong Wang with the photoacoustic imaging system built in his lab
Even though melanoma is one of the less common types of skin cancer, it accounts for the majority of skin cancer deaths – around 75 percent. The five-year survival rate for early stage melanoma is very high (98 percent), but the rate drops precipitously if the cancer is detected late or there is recurrence. So a great deal rides on the accuracy of the initial surgery, where the goal is to remove as little tissue as possible while obtaining “clean margins” all around the tumor. So far no imaging technique has been up to the task of defining the melanoma's boundaries accurately enough to guide surgery – until now.