Dr. Jane Grant-Kels

Finding Skin Cancer in a Flash

Dr. Jane Grant-Kels and Jody D’Antonio, CMA, center, examine a high-resolution, cellular image of a patient’s skin using a technology called In Vivo Reflectance Confocal Microscopy.

Dr. Jane Grant-Kels, right, and Jody D’Antonio, CMA, center, examine a high-resolution, cellular image of a patient’s skin using a technology called In Vivo Reflectance Confocal Microscopy.


New technology at UConn Health has practically eliminated both unnecessary biopsies and human error in skin checks at the dermatologist’s office.

UConn Health is the only institution in Connecticut to offer the latest smart technology to hunt for skin cancer and keep an eye on changing moles. The integrated body-scanning camera and smart software technology, called FotoFinder Bodystudio Automated Total Body Mapping, “helps us find skin cancer in a flash,” says Dr. Jane Grant-Kels, professor and vice chair of UConn Health’s Department of Dermatology and director of the UConn Cutaneous Oncology Center and Melanoma Program.

FotoFinder allows dermatologists or staff to take 20 or more photos of a patient’s entire body, including the palms and the soles of the feet, in about 10 minutes. It also allows easy comparison of photographs year after year, and alerts the dermatologist to changes or new growths.

UConn Health is the only institution in Connecticut to offer the latest smart skin-mapping technology.

“This technology is going to help us save more lives from skin cancer and melanoma,” says Grant-Kels. “It allows for early detection and a more exact science of monitoring patients’ skin changes.”

If concerning growths are detected, another recently arrived technology called In Vivo Reflectance Confocal Microscopy uses a non-invasive optical imaging technique that provides a high-resolution cellular image of the skin. This new technology is safe and painless, and in many cases can be used in lieu of a painful skin biopsy.

“FotoFinder coupled with Confocal will help us go a long way to reducing the number of biopsies performed, including unnecessary biopsies of non-cancerous skin growths,” Grant-Kels says.

For baseline and follow-up photo sessions using the FotoFinder technology, a patient will be asked to get into the proper positions guided by a red laser light and a specially designed floor mat that ensures proper foot positioning. FotoFinder’s smart body-scanning camera automatically moves into various positions to take photos of the entire body, and the software module rapidly stitches the photos together for the dermatologist to review.

After the patient’s follow-up photo session, within seconds the technology precisely places the most recent skin images atop the baseline photos. The software seamlessly aligns and analyzes the new and old photos, and then circles all the detected new and visibly changed skin lesions and moles.

This technology is going to help us save more lives from skin cancer and melanoma.

White circles around lesions or moles signal to the dermatologist no change; yellow circles signal caution to the doctor, as the lesion or mole has changed since the last visit; and red circles raise alarm for the doctor, as a new lesion or mole growth has been identified. This allows the dermatologist to investigate the most alarming skin lesions first.

The technology also allows dermatologists to compare lesion or mole photos side-by-side and to quickly zoom from 20x up to 70x magnification to examine suspicious areas in high-resolution and determine which spots to examine more closely with the traditional handheld dermoscopy tool. The system also includes high-tech, handheld electronic dermoscopy with a built-in medicam for even closer examination and additional photo captures. Plus, the machine is mobile and can be moved easily among exam rooms.

Honor Roll – Spring 2016

UConn John Dempsey Hospital earned an ‘A’ in patient safety for fall 2015 from premier nonprofit hospital safety advocate The Leapfrog Group.


Dr. Robert L. Trestman is a co-recipient of the 2016 Manfred S. Guttmacher Award from the American Psychiatric Association and the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law (AAPL) for his outstanding contributions to the literature of forensic psychiatry.


Dr. Pamela Moore was named Best Doctor in the Willimantic Chronicle’s 2015 Readers’ Choice Awards.


The UConn School of Dental Medicine was named winner of the 2016 William J. Gies Award for Outstanding Achievement by an Academic Dental Institution.


Reinhard C. Laubenbacher, Ph.D., of UConn Health and The Jackson Laboratory (JAX) for Genomic Medicine has been named a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and co-editor of the Bulletin of Mathematical Biology.


Dr. Bruce Strober and Dr. Jane Grant-Kels were honored with Presidential Citations by the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) at its annual meeting in Washington, D.C. on March 3.

Melanoma Patients Benefit from New Immunotherapy Drug

Microscopic view of a histology specimen of melanoma on human skin tissue

Microscopic view of a histology specimen of melanoma on human skin tissue.


Patients with advanced melanoma are benefiting from the same drug credited recently with the disappearance of the disease in former President Jimmy Carter.

Physicians with UConn Health’s Carole and Ray Neag Comprehensive Cancer Center are successfully boosting the immune system of some of their advanced melanoma patients with a new, promising immunotherapy tool called Keytruda (pembrolizumab).

The drug was granted accelerated FDA approval in September 2014 for the treatment of melanoma patients who no longer respond to other drug treatments and are not candidates for surgery.

Melanoma is one of the deadliest types of skin cancer. If not detected early and removed from the skin, it can spread deep into the skin and to the body’s other organs, such as the lungs, liver, and brain. It is often fatal.

“Melanoma affects the young and the old, and its incidence is on the rise,” says Dr. Upendra P. Hegde, associate professor in the Department of Medicine, and chief medical oncologist for melanoma and cutaneous oncology and head and neck cancer/oral oncology at UConn Health. More than 75,000 people are diagnosed with melanoma annually, and nearly 10,000 Americans die from it each year.

Hegde says melanoma spreads quickly because tumors evade the immune system’s attack by expressing proteins called PD-L1 and PD-L2 (program death ligand 1 and 2), compromising the ability of a person’s T-cells to fight cancer.

However, Keytruda boosts a patient’s immune system, helping it fight back and preventing the cancer-fighting cells from becoming exhausted.

“Keytruda is the first PD-1 inhibitor drug that is allowing us to shrink the melanoma tumors in up to 35 percent of our UConn Health patients,” says Hegde.

Since not all advanced melanoma patients respond to current available drug therapies including Keytruda, UConn Health researchers are participating in two clinical trials that combine Keytruda with other therapy options. One, called INCYTE and led by principal investigator Dr. Jeffrey Wasser, is testing the efficacy of combining Keytruda with another immunotherapy drug known as an IDO1 inhibitor (INCB024360) to see if together they can enhance the immune system’s response to advanced melanoma and other solid-tumor cancers. A second trial is testing the possible benefits of Keytruda with standard chemotherapy for relapsed head and neck cancer.

UConn Health’s multidisciplinary melanoma team includes Dr. Jane Grant-Kels and Dr. Philip Kerr of dermatology, Hegde of medical oncology, and Dr. Bruce Brenner, a surgeon who specializes in melanoma, among others.