There’s a new imaging technique that can help clinicians better assess breast cancer, and researchers recently received a grant to help further enhance its capabilities.
Terahertz imaging utilizes electromagnetic radiation technology to produce highly detailed images of biological tissue. In many cases, it outperforms X-ray and CT at showing if surgeons removed all cancerous breast tissue during lumpectomy.
Magda El-Shenawee, PhD, an electrical engineering professor at the University of Arkansas, recently won a more than $424,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health to assess and enhance this technique.
“Our preclinical models showed strong differentiation between cancerous and fatty tissues,” El-Shenawee said Friday, adding “the more clinically relevant differentiation between cancerous and healthy, nonfatty tissue remains challenging. To build upon the successes of our previous work and improve the sensitivity of terahertz imaging to detect cancer at the surgical margins, we have identified areas where we can make significant improvements.”
Using the funds, El-Shenawee and her research team plan to revamp terahertz imaging. That involves a more sensitive approach incorporating additional spatial and spectral details about tumor tissue.
There is a need for an “immediate” imaging tool at small hospitals and outpatient clinics that don’t have on-site pathology capabilities, the team noted.
They will pilot their new system on animal models with breast cancer to try and enhance its detection capabilities and fill that pressing healthcare need.
“We anticipate that the new approach will increase the image contrast between cancerous and healthy adjacent tissues, leading to better differentiation and classification of cancer on the tumor margins,” El-Shenawee added. “The success of this approach should allow us to expand our work and move toward clinical trials.”