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Terahertz Detection Of Skin, Mouth And Epithelial Cancers

TPI™ is non-ionising and less hazardous to use than X-ray and the power levels are generally lower than background terahertz radiation encountered in everyday life. It has the potential for:

Since 1999, TeraView has pioneered the use of terahertz waves for the detection of skin and other surface cancers. Terahertz waves are a safe, non-ionising form of electromagnetic radiation. As such they are ideal for using in the detection of cancer.

In conjunction with a number of UK institutions TeraView has conducted in vivo trials on the detection of skin cancer using a terahertz probe. The results have shown good specificity and selectivity. Work has also been done on mouth and throat cancers.

Initial ex vivo work was done on a unit similar to the TPS Spectra 3000. Latterly TeraView has developed a hand held probe which also connects to the same base unit.

TeraView medical probeTeraView has developed a number of terahertz algorithms which have been shown to be effective at differentiating between healthy and cancerous tissue. However, given the limited penetration of terahertz into the human body, applications are limited to surface cancers or as an intra operative probe.

Non-invasive molecular imaging of epithelial cancer

It is estimated that more than 85% of all cancers originate in the epithelium. Excision biopsy to remove tissue from the body and examining it under a microscope, is the gold standard for cancer diagnosis. TPI™ technology has the potential to greatly improve conventional biopsy and associated surgery by more precisely identifying the areas to be excised thereby reducing the number of procedures and facilitating earlier and more accurate diagnosis. As the technology matures, it may be possible to perform biopsies using TPI™ alone, making possible point of care optical biopsy.


Uniquely TPI™ offers the ability to produce 3D images at high resolution through thick tissue using molecular markers, such as water, to provide spectral and absorption information to differentiate between cancerous and non-cancerous tissues, non-invasively and using non-ionising radiation.

TeraView is working closely with clinical customers and partners to provide imaging and spectroscopic capabilities from our instrumentation for tissue and disease classification ex vivo on excised tissue. We are also actively engaged with partners to develop in vivo intra-operative probes for tissue conservation surgery and endoscopic applications on patients. Extensive work has been carried out on skin and basal cell carcinoma, and recent clinical work has extended these capabilities to breast and other types of tissue.

Use Of Terahertz As An Intra-Operative Tool During Breast Cancer Surgery

histology and terahertz overlay

Histology and Terahertz
Image Overlay

Terahertz waves can be used real time to confirm the removal of all the cancer tissue, significantly reducing the need for subsequent operations. In removing cancerous tissue, the surgeon makes his best estimate of where the diseased tissue is. This tissue is then sent to biopsy, where the margins are checked. That is to say they verify that the tissue is surrounded only by healthy cells. When doing breast surgery it is also routine to check the synaptic nodes. Again, samples are taken and sent for biopsy. This testing can take 2-3 weeks and in 30% of cases women are called back for a second operation. By having equipment that can do this test in real time, the need for recalls can be avoided.

Terahertz Image of Skin Cancer

Working with Guys hospital in London TeraView has demonstrated the ability to use terahertz waves as an intra-operative tool during breast cancer surgery. This allows the surgeon to check the removed tissue and to carry out further removals if required. Results indicate a specificity of 88-90% and a sensitivity of circa 72%.

Further in-vivo trials are now planned for autumn 2012, which would also allow the terahertz probe the be placed within the incision, to check for any remaining cancer tissue. TeraView has received approval by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to conduct such trials and use Terahertz Pulsed Imaging (TPI™) for (bio)medical research.

Other Medical Applications:

Other THz Applications

contactus For further information on the use of terahertz as an intra-operative probe contact us.

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