Melanoma of the vulva is the second most common type of malignancy afflicting that organ. This disease caries poor prognosis, and shows tendencies to recur locally and develop distant metastases through hematogenous dissemination. Further, there exists significant clinical overlap between early-stage melanomas and melanotic macules, benign lesions that are believed to develop in about 10% of the general female population. In this work we apply a novel nonlinear optical method, pump-probe microscopy, to quantitatively analyze female genitalia tract melanocytic lesions. Pump-probe microscopy provides chemical information of endogenous pigments by probing their electronic excited state dynamics, with subcellular resolution.
Using unstained biopsy sections from 31 patients, we find significant differences between melanin type and structure in tissue regions with invasive melanoma, melanoma in-situ and non-malignant melanocytic proliferations (e.g., nevi, melanocytic macules). The molecular images of non-malignant lesion have a well-organized structure, with relatively homogenous pigment chemistry, most often consistent with that of eumelanin with large aggregate size or void of metals, such as iron. On the other hand, pigment type and structure observed in melanomas in-situ and invasive melanomas is typically much more heterogeneous, with larger contributions from pheomelanin, melanins with larger metal content, and/or melanins with smaller aggregate size. Of most significance, clear differences can be observed between melanocytic macules and vulvar melanoma in-situ, which, as discussed above, can be difficult to clinically distinguish. This initial study demonstrates pump-probe microscopy’s potential as an adjuvant diagnostic tool by revealing systematic chemical and morphological differences in melanin pigmentation among invasive melanoma, melanoma in-situ and non-malignant melanocytic lesions.
Francisco E. Robles, Maria A. Selim, and Warren S. Warren, "Diagnosis and staging of female genital tract melanocytic lesions using pump-probe microscopy (Conference Presentation)," Proc. SPIE 9689, Photonic Therapeutics and Diagnostics XII, 968903 (Presented at SPIE BiOS: February 13, 2016; Published: 27 April 2016); https://doi.org/10.1117/12.2212949.4828143211001.
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