John Dobak, MD
Screening for cancer early significantly increases a patient’s chance of fighting the cancer, but as people avoid in-person doctor visits due to COVID-19, the risk to patients of cancer developing into its later stages is high. In the past decade, the number of invasive melanoma diagnoses increased by 47 percent, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. DermTech, an organization transforming the cancer detection process, is utilizing telemedicine to make skin cancer diagnosis more accessible.
“Telemedicine is currently more important than ever for potential skin cancer patients,” said John Dobak, MD, CEO of DermTech. “According to the American Cancer Society, melanoma when caught early before it spreads, has a 99% 5-year survival rate. The survival rate drops to 65% if it has spread to the local area and 25% if distantly spread.”
Early detection can significantly lessen the risk of cancer developing into later stages. “Melanoma is very curable when caught early but progresses quickly and becomes deadly if not properly diagnosed and treated at the earliest stages,” Dobak said. “When we couple this rapid escalation of mortality with today’s COVID-19 environment, when many people are delaying or foregoing routine doctor visits, we become very concerned for risks of unnecessary death and advanced stage melanoma.”
Telemedicine visits can start with simply reviewing any moles that might be cause for concern. “If the doctor sees something suspicious, they can order the DermTech Melanoma Test for the patient to collect their own sample in the comfort of their home under the video supervision of their doctor,” Dobak said. “The sample collection is very simple to perform and involves a series of smart stickers that the patient can place on the suspicious mole, lift off and send to DermTech for genomic analysis to assess if this mole contains genomic markers consistent with melanoma.” 97 percent of melanomas contain one of three genomic markers that can be captured for testing.
“In recent years, genomics has transformed the way we diagnose and treat many forms of cancer,” Dobak said. Typically, a surgical biopsy of a suspicious mole is used to determine whether it is cancerous. The challenge is that there needs to be enough melanoma cells present for the melanoma to be visually diagnosed. “The advantage of genomic analysis is the ability to detect the genomic markers consistent with melanoma before enough cancer cells exist for a traditional biopsy pathway to see them,” Dobak said. “DermTech’s revolutionary technology allows us to non-invasively capture and store a small number of skin cells and analyze them for the genomic markers associated with melanoma. We can do this simply, quickly, painlessly, and non-invasively to more accurately detect early stage melanoma than traditional skin biopsies.”