Exclusive Interview with Thiago Pradi, creator of iMelanoma, the automatic skin cancer detection app!

On Oct 21, 2013

At Central Skin, we like to stay at the forefront of your skin's health. An emerging trend these days is to use mobile technology to aid in the diagnosis of disease so that you can bring it to the early attention of your doctor. This same trend is blossoming in the field of dermatology. And one if its future digital leaders is a Brazilian software developer named Thiago Pradi. Thiago created the iMelanoma app, which automatically scans your moles and risk stratifies them as benign or malignant. Thiago's app has created a buzz in Brazil, as evidenced by the news segment talking about it below (we don't speak Portugese either, but you get the point). We caught up with Thiago to ask him a few questions about what motivated him to create iMelanoma, the rates of skin cancer in Brazil, and what future directions he hopes to take his work.

Central Skin: Tell me about your background and education?
My name is Thiago Pradi, I am 25 years old and I'm a software developer from Brazil. I graduated with a degree in Computer Science from FURB, the regional university of Blumenau. I'm currently living in Jaraguá do Sul, a small town from the south of Brazil.
Central Skin: When did you first start to get an interest in product development for dermatology?
I started to became interested in the field after taking some classes from the teacher that mentored my research (Prof. Aurélio Hoppe). He was giving a lecture on Geometric Algorithms, and he tried to illustrate the principles to the class with some real world examples. So, he showed some research in the health informatics field, including one for automated melanoma detection. So, I became really interested in the field, and it was the beginning of my research. 
Central Skin: How common is skin cancer in Brazil?
Surprisingly, skin cancer is pretty common in Brazil. Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in Brazil and corresponds to 25% of all malignant tumors registered in the country.  Skin cancer is most prevelant mainly in the South/Southeast of Brazil, because of the higher UV indices and because of the local population of Germans/Italian descendants, with lighter skin types (which are more likely to have skin cancer). Also, the town where my college is located has one of the highest rates of melanoma in the world!!
Central Skin: What were some of the challenges in creating an automatic technology for recognizing skin cancer?
There are a lot of challenges in detecting skin cancer. Mainly, there are a lot of different skin cancers, with different characteristics and visual forms. My research was focused only on Melanoma. The first challenge was the specific knowledge, because I'm a computer science student, and I didn't had any dermatological information. I studied a bit about, and had help from a Dermatologist (Dr. Roberto Coswig Fiss). In the programming part, we still faced a lot of challenges like:
- Different illumination on the images
- Low contrast between the lesion and the skin surrounding the lesion
- Presence of hair and other noises in the image
- Different skin colors
Also, the hardest part of the algorithm is to translate the ABCD rule into a Computer Vision algorithm, that needs to be fast enough to run into a mobile device (like a iPhone)
Central Skin: What is your program called and how was it tested?
My application is called iMelanoma. It consist of a iPhone application that the user can take a picture of the lesion, run the algorithm and see the results. It was tested with a educational database of skin lesions, with 90% success rate. Nevertheless, my application didn't get tested yet in a clinical trial, so, it's not suitable for clinical use right now.
Central Skin: What was the response of the media, the public, the doctors in Brazil to your technology?
It was pretty good. My application was featured in a few different medias( like the Jornal of the Brazilian Society of Dermatology). Also, I did some interviews for local TV Channels. Everyone is excited with this kind of technology, including the doctors.
Central Skin: What are your future plans for your technology?
I have plans to ship the application for use, but I need to run a clinical trial of the application before, to get the approval of the healthcare regulatory agency. Also, I want to improve the user interface of the application, making it easier to use. But I'm excited to keep improving and developing new technologies that can save lives in the future. Also, I'm looking for universities / private partners interested in extending my research.


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