Photoacoustic imaging of periorbital skin cancer ex vivo: unique spectral signatures of malignant melanoma, basal, and squamous cell carcinoma

Biomed Opt Express. 2021 Dec 17;13(1):410-425. doi: 10.1364/BOE.443699. eCollection 2022 Jan 1.


Radical excision of periorbital skin tumors is difficult without sacrificing excessive healthy tissue. Photoacoustic (PA) imaging is an emerging non-invasive biomedical imagi--ng modality that has potential for intraoperative micrographic control of surgical margins. This is the first study to assess the feasibility of PA imaging for the detection of periocular skin cancer. Eleven patients underwent surgical excision of periocular skin cancer, one of which was a malignant melanoma (MM), eight were basal cell carcinomas (BCCs), and two squamous cell carcinomas (SCCs). Six tumors were located in the eyelid, and five in periocular skin. The excised samples, as well as healthy eyelid samples, were scanned with PA imaging postoperatively, using 59 wavelengths in the range 680-970 nm, to generate 3D multispectral images. Spectral unmixing was performed using endmember spectra for oxygenated and deoxygenated Hb, melanin, and collagen, to iden--tify the chromophore composition of tumors and healthy eyelid tissue. After PA scanning, the tumor samples were examined histopathologically using standard hematoxylin and eosin staining. The PA spectra of healthy eyelid tissue were dominated by melanin in the skin, oxygenated and deoxygenated hemoglobin in the orbicularis oculi muscle, and collagen in the tarsal plate. Multiwavelength 3D scanning provided spectral information on the three tumor types. The spectrum from the MM was primarily reconstructed by the endmember melanin, while the SCCs showed contributions primarily from melanin, but also HbR and collagen. BCCs showed contributions from all four endmembers with a predominance of HbO2 and HbR. PA imaging may be used to distinguish different kinds of periocular skin tumors, paving the way for future intraoperative micrographic control.