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A New Diagnostic Tool for Skin Cancer Detection


Für den Inhalt der Angaben zeichnet die Projektleitung verantwortlich.


Dieses von der Gebert Rüf Stiftung geförderte Projekt wird von folgenden weiteren Projektpartnern mitgetragen: Zürich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW), Institute for Computational Physics (ICP), Center for Product and Process Development (ZPP), Institute for Applied Mathematics and Physics (IAMP); Geneva University Hospital (HUG); Dermolocking GmbH; Zimmer Medizin Systeme, Ulm, Germany; Fotofinder, Germany


  • Projekt-Nr: GRS-072/13 
  • Förderbeitrag: CHF 198'000 
  • Bewilligung: 01.05.2014 
  • Dauer: 07.2014 - 01.2017 
  • Handlungsfeld:  Pilotprojekte, 1998 - 2018



Due to sun exposure and aging of the population, skin cancer is exploding in industrialized countries becoming a major health issue. Just in Switzerland, 15 000 new cases are diagnosed every year making skin cancer the most general form of cancer. The current diagnostic of skin cancer is essentially clinical and relies on the visual examination of the lesion. The treatment of cancerous cutaneous lesions is invasive and expensive because this visual assessment cannot always show the lateral extension of the tumor and do not give information about its penetration depth. In this context, an objective tool improving the diagnostic is urgently required. The Institute of Computational Physics (ICP) of the Zürich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW) has recently developed a new diagnostic system based on lock-in thermal imaging. Due to its ability to measure transient skin temperature signals, the apparatus provides dermatologists with a way to see below the skin surface, so they can: excise the tumor in one operation reducing multi-step procedures; safely use less invasive treatments such as topical applications or photodynamic therapy when possible; reduce the number of unnecessary excisions of benign or very superficial lesions. Our first prototype is now at the Geneva University Hospitals for a clinical evaluation and a ZHAW spin-off company has been recently founded for the future commercialization of the diagnostic tool. Nonetheless, to prepare a successful market entry, further developments concerning the device are urgently required. Those concern mainly the performances of the device inspection head, in contact with the patient body, and the mobile unit generating the thermal stimulation. In addition to those developments, the project will also obtain all the required medical certifications for a successful commercialization in the EU. Finally, the potential of the Dermolockin device for the diagnostic of other dermatological diseases will be explored.

Was ist das Besondere an diesem Projekt?

The current diagnostic of skin cancer relies on the visual examination and palpation of the lesion. To improve the diagnostic accuracy, dermatologists often use a dermatoscope. The problem is that the treatment of skin cancer is invasive and expensive because this visual assessment cannot always show the lateral extension of the tumor and does not give any information about its penetration depth.

In this project, we propose to develop an innovative diagnostic tool based on active thermography, capable of detecting the lesion margins and depth. Such a unique apparatus will allow the physician to first safely use less invasive treatments if possible (in the case for example of a very superficial lesion). Second, it will enable the removal of the entire tumor in one operation, limiting complex multi-step surgical procedures. This would have a dramatic impact in term of costs reduction (fewer repeated operations) and patient safety and comfort (better targeting of treatment options means less recidivism of cancer, less healthy tissue removed means smaller scars).


The project has started in July 2014 with the definition of the device specifications. In comparison to our last prototype, we fully re-engineered the hardware, incorporating the best available components (see Figure 1). A new infrared camera from the company Xenics now equips our inspection head recording infrared images with exceptional lateral and thermal resolution. A 5MP high-definition visible camera allows in combination with polarized illumination to capture dermatoscopic grade images. In addition, the mechanical arm has been specifically "in-house" developed to allow an optimal usability. No monitor but a tablet allows the user to control the device. All the steps of the development, as well as the component selection, have been carefully documented and tested to prepare a successful CE certification of the diagnostic device.
In parallel, a new Commission for Technology and Innovation project (CTI) has just started between ZHAW and Dermolockin GmbH and focuses on the development of new device software. This software will include state-of-the-art image demodulation and processing algorithms and an easy-to-use user interface.

The Dermolockin company was selected as finalist of the «Heuberger Winterthur Jungunternehmerpreise» and has received the support from the «Eidgenössische Stiftung zur Förderung Schweizerischer Volkswirtschaft durch wissenschaftliche Forschung» for its expansion. Market entry of our DermoInspectTM device is foreseen in 2017.


Current publication related to the project:
Bonmarin & Le Gal (2016). Thermal imaging in dermatology. Imaging and Dermatology, Elsevier, Eds. Hamblin, Avci & Gupta.;
Bonmarin & Le Gal (2015). A lock-in thermal imaging setup for dermatological applications. Skin Research and Technology, 24 284-290;
Bonmarin & Le Gal (2014). Lock-in thermal imaging for the early-stage detection of cutaneous melanoma: A feasibility study. Computers in Biology and Medicine, 47 36-43. (Top ten paper of the year);
Bonmarin, Mathias (2013). Dem Hautkrebs auf der Spur. SWISS ENGINEERING STZ, 10. 31-32.



Am Projekt beteiligte Personen

Dr. Mathias Bonmarin, ZHAW ICP, Tel. 058 934 75 16
Frédérique-Anne Le Gal, PhD, HUG, Unité d'Onco-Dermatologie, Tel. 022 372 96 90
Christian Hilbes, PhD, ZHAW IAMP, Tel. 058 934 65 45
Hanspeter Sauter, Msc, ZHAW ZPP, Tel. 058 934 72 28
Bruno Schmid, Bsc, ZHAW IMES, Tel. 058 934 73 30,

Letzte Aktualisierung dieser Projektdarstellung  30.07.2020