Seton Doctor, UT Researchers’ New Cancer Detection Tool Wins SXSW ‘Sci Fi No Longer’ Invention Award



AUSTIN, Texas – (March 18, 2015) – It’s no longer science-fiction. Seton’s own Dr. Jason Reichenberg and James Tunnell, PhD with the Cockrell School of Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin, invented a new tool that detects skin cancer faster, pain-free and at a much lower cost.

It was such a breakthrough, the device won first place in the “Sci Fi No Longer” category of the SXSW Interactive Awards on March 17. Here is a link to a video about the device.

The device is the size of a pen and can eliminate the need for costly, unnecessary biopsies. Reichenberg and Tunnel estimate that 25 negative biopsies are performed for every one case of skin cancer detected, translating to an annual cost of $6 billion to the U.S. health care system.

The 3-in-1 device reduces the high number and cost of negative biopsies by giving physicians a clearer picture of which skin lesions are most likely cancerous. Instead of removing the skin lesion to test for cancerous cells, a light from the probe shines over the affected area.

A computer system hooked to the probe then analyzes the way the light interacts with the skin tissues. Each reading takes about 4.5 seconds to perform.

UT’s Cockrell School of Engineering team has partnered with Seton Healthcare Family to conduct clinical trials of the 3-in-1 device this spring. Seton is a member of Ascension, the nation’s largest Catholic and non-profit health care system.

“Accessible, affordable technologies that reduce costs and improve the patient experience are critical components in the new model of health care,” said Reichenberg, Seton dermatologist and clinical director of dermatology for the University of Texas Physicians Group. “This is another example of Seton and Ascension’s mission to care for and improve the health of those we serve.”

InnovationAward trophy

In the SXSW competition, the skin cancer tool was up against a flying car and other innovations which before 2014 were only possible in science fiction.

“The 3-in-1 skin cancer detection device could revolutionize the skin cancer screening process and Seton is excited to partner with Dr. Tunnell and his team to make this important technology available to Central Texans,” Reichenberg said.

Reichenberg will partner with funding agencies and startup companies to bring the device to dermatologists and their patients.