One Click Detects Cancer
Worried that glaring mole you spotted on your morning commute might be cancerous? With SkinScan’s app and an iPhone, you could have a pretty good answer in one simple click.
SkinScan’s app uses fractals to map moles and detect anomalies, spotting irregularities in an instant. The app then delivers three shades of response, including green (good to go), yellow (caution, better get it checked out), and red (danger, definitely see a doctor). The app then works to connect you to area dermatologists to verify the accuracy.
The app is no replacement for a doctor, and merely indicates when you really should see one. Nevertheless, the company tested the app on 5,000 images of moles, throwing out 40 percent due to problems with the sample or picture. The company then had a doctor do the actual testing on the moles. The sample testing revealed a 70 percent accuracy, meaning that seven out of 10 potentially cancerous moles actually had cancer.
“It’s kind of like taking your temperature for a fever,” explained Victor Anastasiu, co-founder of SkinScan. “It gives you an indication if a mole is risky or not according to the patterns of the fractal. Cancer is a deviation from a normal fractal development.”
The app is currently available for the iPhone only, though a more extensive version of the app will be marketed in June for both iOS and Android platforms, Anastasiu said.
The company began first with an algorithm that could detect irregularities in a fractal pattern. It then connected its IT specialists and programmers with dermatologists to address skin cancer. Anastasiu noted that the algorithm can be applied to any use that requires detecting abnormalities in fractals, but chose to start with moles because nobody had done so before.
“Despite the fact that fractal geometry is used in research, applying it to moles was completely disruptive from this perspective,” Anastasiu said. “But you take anything that needs to identify a deviation of a pattern, and this kind of technology can be applied.”
It was enough of a disruption to attract the attention of IBM. Based in Romania, SkinScan was a finalist in this year’s IBM’s SmartCamp competition that sought to identify the hottest startups around the world.
Deb Magid, IBM’s director of software strategy, remembered how during Anastasiu ‘s presentation, he asked the audience to take out their iPhones, download the app and try it out.
“There was something so engaging about it, yet it’s not a game, but something very serious,” Magid said. “Their use of fractal technology was incredibly clever.”
The exposure helped bring the company’s name to the forefront, as well as land the company a sizable, undisclosed investment a couple of months ago.
“We gained many interesting contacts that inspired us to see new ways in which we could implement our product,” Anastasiu said. “Perhaps these contacts will become partners or get involved in the company further in one way or another.”
The company next plans to extend the functioning of the app, creating more connections between doctors and patients, including the ability to mass records of scans of the app to share with doctors, as well as better capabilities of connecting with doctors after using the app.
“We are trying to create a very unique relationship between the dermatologist and the patient,” Anastasiu said. “As for now, this doesn’t replace the human eye, but it does increase the connection, and that can save many lives.”