AHN Cancer Institute Unveils State-of-the-Art Skin Cancer Center at West Penn Hospital

Updated on November 6, 2023

Allegheny Health Network Cancer Institute recently unveiled its new, state-of-the-art Skin Cancer Center at West Penn Hospital, featuring a first-in-the-region full-body 3D imaging system that provides custom digital surveillance for skin abnormalities.

The new 9,000-square-foot facility provides dermatology and cancer patients with one-stop access to the network’s comprehensive clinical and surgical expertise, as well as leading-edge therapies and technologies. By uniting physicians in dermatology, medical oncology, surgical oncology, radiation oncology, radiology, pathology, integrative medicine, and psychiatry with nurse navigators, social workers, and other support staff, the AHN Skin Cancer Center provides patients with every possible resource to aid them on their health journey.

The AHN Skin Cancer Center is also home to the region’s first and only VECTRA WB360 Whole Body Imaging System.

VECTRA WB360 captures patient images using 92 high-definition cameras and special flash lighting, generating a single 3D avatar of the entire body. Digitized records of the patient’s skin allow clinicians to examine individual moles and lesions, and monitor changes in size, color, and shape over time by comparing subsequent VECTRA imaging to the baseline avatar. 

The entire imaging process takes just a few minutes.

The VECTRA WB360 technology at West Penn Hospital is one of 15 such devices in operation in the United States. West Penn is in Pittsburgh’s Bloomfield neighborhood.

“Dermatology and skin cancer medicine are visual fields – having better images means better care for our patients, and more timely detection of suspicious abnormalities,” said Howard D. Edington, MD, surgical oncologist and director of the AHN Skin Cancer Center. “By combining artificial intelligence with the clinical expertise of our physicians, we can provide more thorough preventive care.” 

VECTRA WB360 includes software that compares the patient’s images with a set of images in the VECTRA database that have a known diagnosis. An algorithm then calculates a score to quantify the risk or biological concern of the lesion, helping to guide the clinician as results are analyzed.

Patients who undergo VECTRA imaging at the Skin Cancer Center will be notified after a review of the imaging if any of the skin lesions warrant a biopsy or follow-up care.  

“The new Skin Cancer Center is a true testament to Highmark Health’s Living Health promise,” said David L. Bartlett, MD, Chair, AHN Cancer Institute. “With more Americans being diagnosed with skin cancer than all other cancers combined, the need for highly accessible and advanced technology to provide routine surveillance to patients is critical to catch the disease as early as possible.”

Clinical and translational research conducted at the Skin Cancer Center will focus on additional new medical therapies, real-time diagnostic technologies that help doctors catch cancer at its earliest stages, and identifying novel biomarkers that can be used to develop precision medicine that targets cancers’ genetic makeup.

According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, in the U.S., more than 9,500 people are diagnosed with skin cancer every day, and more than two people die of the disease every hour.

About 1 in 50 Americans will develop melanoma during their lifetimes, and its incidence has doubled over the past 30 years, according to the Melanoma Research Alliance. About 166,000 Americans are diagnosed with melanoma annually and about 7,000 may die from the disease. Skin cancers, including melanoma, are strongly connected with exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun or tanning beds.

The AHN Cancer Institute also offers innovative treatments for skin cancers, such as oncolytic virus therapy for inoperable melanoma. Treatment is delivered directly into the patient’s tumor, and the therapy acts in concert with the body’s immune system to fight the cancer.

The development of the Skin Cancer Center was funded by a generous donation from the West Penn Hospital Foundation.

“Thanks to generous philanthropy from the West Penn Hospital Foundation, the AHN Skin Cancer Center is now an important regional asset in the fight against cancer,” said Mitch Beckman, Highmark Health’s Chief Development Officer. “The new technology and services offered at the Skin Cancer Center will greatly improve the experience and outcomes for patients diagnosed with skin cancer, advancing AHN’s commitment to offering the most advanced, personalized care for patients.”

Patients interested in scheduling an appointment at the AHN Skin Cancer Center at West Penn Hospital can call 412-578-HOPE. The new center is on the hospital’s second floor the Mellon Pavilion of the hospital.

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