Mole Mapper App Tracks Cancer


PORTLAND, Ore. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — Cancer of the skin is by far the most common of all cancers and while melanoma accounts for only a small portion of those cancers, it’s by far the deadliest. But now, Oregon medical inventors have come up with a smartphone app that can be a life saver.

It was John Rusoff’s wife who insisted her husband get that misshapen mole checked out by his dermatologist.

“The mole was about the size of a pencil eraser, top wise, and i ended up with a five-inch scar on my arm.” Said Rusoff.

Sancy Leachman, MD, PhD, Chair, Department of Dermatology at OHSU School of Medicine said, “The earlier we catch it, the better off that patient is. The later we catch it, the more life threatening that melanoma is. Period.”

Enter the mole mapper. Doctor Leachman is spearheading the use of this free new phone app that does exactly what its name describes.

“We are taking pictures of the body and the moles in those body regions and following them over time to see if they’re changing. And the idea is that really if you can put this power in the hands of every individual who has a smart phone with a camera, then you’re reaching an enormous number of people that way.” Doctor Leachman continued.

The mole mapper reminds you to re-check yourself regularly. And researchers hope the app eventually can tell you to head back to the doctor to have a mole removed.

Leachman stated, “If they have a melanoma and they actually pay attention, that will change. By definition, a melanoma is growing. It’s a cancer. It’s growing out of control.”

Since doctors spotted it early, Rusoff called the surgery to remove his melanoma a small ‘bump in the road’.

“It could have been a huge bump, you know, once again, if I had ignored it and it had gotten in places that it shouldn’t, and metastasized, I could have a whole different story.” Rusoff said.

Mole mapper is available for iPhone devices. The app will help gather data from around the country to help melanoma researchers and, they hope, will help the lives of people especially at risk for the deadly skin cancer. The app was developed by Dan Webster, PHD, a cancer biologist to help his wife monitor her moles between visits with her dermatologist.

Contributors to this news report include: John Hammarley, Producer; Roque Correa, Editor; Jeff Haney, Videographer.

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BACKGROUND: Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States. Current estimates are that one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime. Nearly 9,500 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with this cancer every day, and more than 1 million Americans are living with melanoma. Studies show that 161,790 new cases of melanoma, 74,680 non-invasive cases and 87,110 invasive cases of skin cancers will be diagnosed in the U.S. in 2017. Caucasians and men older than 50 have a higher risk of developing melanoma than the general population. The incidence in men ages 80 and older is three times higher than women of the same age. In people of color, melanoma is often diagnosed at later stages, when the disease is more advanced. Melanoma in Caucasian women younger than 44 has increased 6.1 percent annually, which may reflect recent trends in indoor tanning. Melanoma is the second most common form of cancer in females age 15-29 and is increasing faster in females of that age than in males of the same age group.


SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS: There are three major types of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma (the most common), squamous cell carcinoma (the second most common), which originate from skin cells, and melanoma, which originates from the pigment-producing skin cells but is less common, though more dangerous. Most basal cell carcinomas have few, if any symptoms, while squamous cell carcinomas may be painful. Both forms of skin cancer may appear as a sore that bleeds, oozes, crusts, or otherwise will not heal. Both kinds of skin cancers may have raised edges and a central ulceration. Moles are almost always harmless and very rarely turn into skin cancer. If a mole becomes cancerous, it is considered a melanoma. There is a precancerous stage, called a dysplastic nevus, which is somewhat more irregular than a normal mole. An early sign of melanoma is noticing a difference in a mole by its asymmetry, irregular border, color change, increasing diameter, or other evolving changes. Moles never become squamous cell carcinomas or basal cell carcinomas.


 PROMISING NEW RESEARCH: Michigan State University researchers have discovered that a chemical compound, and potential new drug, reduces the spread of melanoma cells by up to 90 percent. The human-made, small-molecule drug compound goes after a gene’s ability to produce RNA molecules and certain proteins in melanoma tumors. This gene activity causes the disease to spread, but the compound can shut it down. “It’s been a challenge developing small-molecule drugs that can block this gene activity and work as a signaling mechanism known to be important in melanoma progression,” says Richard Neubig, a pharmacology professor and co-author of the study. “Our chemical compound is actually the same one that we’ve been working on to potentially treat the disease, scleroderma, which now we’ve found works effectively on this type of cancer.” The team also discovered that the potential drug greatly reduced tumors specifically in the lungs of mice that had been injected with human melanoma cells. Researchers say figuring out which patients have this pathway turned on is an important next step in the development of their compound because it would help them determine which patients would benefit the most. According to Neubig, if the disease is caught early, chance of death is only 2 percent. If caught late, that figure rises to 84 percent.


* For More Information, Contact:

Sancy Leachman, MD, PhD                                                       Amanda Gibbs, OHSU Media Relations

Chair, Dept. of Dermatology                                            

OHSU School of Medicine                                                         503-494-7986