Cancer patients who also undergo radiation therapy experience unfortunate side effects including skin irritation, and sometimes peeling and blistering. Researchers are testing a new imaging device designed to monitor, quantify, and hopefully one day predict skin toxicity levels induced by radiation therapy. Using visible and near-infrared light at very low power, the researchers are trying to characterize the skin damage during radiation therapy, especially for the treatment of breast cancer.

SFDI Images of melanin, total hemoglobin (Hb) and oxygen saturation (O2 sat.) of the treated breast of a 49 y.o. subject, at baseline and at the end of the radiation treatment (52 Gy out of 60 Gy total). The right panels show the percent change from baseline of the melanin (top), and total Hemoglobin and oxygen saturation (bottom) for all the study time-points.

Using their new imaging technique, the project is aimed at using precision measurements to characterize skin toxicity of tissue exposed to radiation. By tracking these measurements throughout treatment, the team hopes to better understand the factors involved in skin damage and, hopefully, how to predict acute and late effects.

More specifically, the group used eight different wavelengths of visible and near-infrared light from LEDs, measuring how much of each energy is absorbed by the skin. This provides them with a quantitative values indicative of skin health. To generate these values accurately, the light from the LEDs is modulated spatially, imparting distinct patterns with a digital micro-mirror device within the instrument. Formally, this functional imaging technique is called spatial frequency domain imaging, or SFDI.