Non-melanoma skin cancer (NMSC) is the most common malignant tumor affecting fair-skinned people. Increasing incidence rates of NMSC have been reported worldwide, which is an important challenge in terms of public health management. Surgical excision with pre-operatively identified margins is one of the most common and effective treatment strategies. Incomplete tumor removal is associated with a very high risk of recurrence and re-excision. Biological tissues can absorb and re-emit specific light wave-lengths, detectable through spectrophotometric devices. Such a phenomenon is known as autofluorescence (AF). AF spectroscopy has been widely explored for non-invasive, early detection of NMSC as well as for evaluation of surgical margins before excision. Fluorescence-aided diagnosis is based on differences in spectral characteristics between healthy and neoplastic skin. Understanding the biological basis of such differences and correlating AF intensity to histological features could improve the diagnostic accuracy of skin fluorescence spectroscopy. The primary objective of the present pre-clinical ex vivo study is to investigate the correlation between the intensity of cutaneous AF and the histopathological features of NMSC. Ninety-eight lesions suggestive for NMSCs were radically excised from 75 patients (46 M; 29 F; mean age: 79 years). After removal, 115 specific reference points on lesions (“cases”; 59 on BBC, 53 on SCC and 3 on other lesions) and on peri-lesional healthy skin (controls; 115 healthy skin) were identified and marked through suture stitches. Such reference points were irradiated at 400–430 nm wavelength, and resulting emission AF spectra were acquired through spectrophotometry. For each case, AFIR (autofluorescence intensity ratio) was measured as the ratio between the number of photons emitted at a wavelength ranging between 450 and 700 nm (peak: 500 nm) in the healthy skin and that was captured in the pathological tissue. At the histological level, hyperkeratosis, neoangiogenesis, cellular atypia, epithelial thickening, fibrosis and elastosis were quantified by light microscopy and were assessed through a previously validated grading system. Statistical correlation between histologic variables and AFIR was calculated through linear regression. Spectrometric evaluation was performed on 230 (115 cases + 115 controls) reference points. The mean AFIR for BCC group was 4.5, while the mean AFIR for SCC group was 4.4 and the fluorescence peaks at 500 nm were approximately 4 times lower (hypo-fluorescent) in BCCs and in SCCs than in healthy skin. Histological variables significantly associated with alteration of AFIR were fibrosis and elastosis (p < 0.05), neoangiogenesis, hyperkeratosis and epithelial thickening. Cellular atypia was not significantly associated with alteration of AFIR. The intensity of fluorescence emission in neoplastic tissues was approximately 4 times lower than that in healthy tissues. Histopathological features such as hyperkeratosis, neoangiogenesis, fibrosis and elastosis are statistically associated with the decrease in AFIR. We hypothesize that such tissue alterations are among the possible biophysical and biochemical bases of difference in emission AF between neoplastic and healthy tissue. The results of the present evaluation highlighted the possible usefulness of autofluorescence as diagnostic, non-invasive and real-time tool for NMSCs.
Correlation between autofluorescence intensity and histopathological features in non-melanoma skin cancer: An ex vivo study / Giovannacci, I.; Meleti, M.; Garbarino, F.; Cesinaro, A. M.; Mataca, E.; Pedrazzi, G.; Reggiani, C.; Paganelli, A.; Truzzi, A.; Elia, F.; Giacomelli, L.; Magnoni, C.. - In: CANCERS. - ISSN 2072-6694. - 13:16(2021), p. 3974.3974. [10.3390/cancers13163974]
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