“I was keen to go on a clinical trial. I wanted to try new cancer treatments and hopefully help future generations.”
A study testing a device to check for remaining cancer cells during surgery for early breast cancer
This study used a device called terahertz pulsed imaging (TPI). To see whether it can show cancer cells during surgery to remove breast cancer or during a test of the
This trial was open for people to join between August 2013 and August 2014. The team published the results in 2017.
More about this trial
You have further surgery to remove more tissue if there are cancer cells in the clear margin. But you may have to wait for these results to come back.
Researchers looked at a device called terahertz pulsed imaging (TPI) to see if it can test the margin during surgery. TPI uses a harmless type of radiation to find cancer cells in a piece of tissue. In the laboratory, TPI successfully showed the difference between normal breast tissue and cancer cells.
In this study, they wanted to see how well TPI worked during surgery.
The aim of the study is to compare the results from TPI with the results of the pathologist.
Summary of results
The study team found that terahertz pulsed imaging (TPI) can show the difference between normal breast tissue and cancer breast tissue.
The team used tissue samples of 46 people. They compared the results of using TPI with the results of the pathologists who looked at the tissue samples in the lab.
The team looked at how often the TPI:
- reported the correct results (this is accuracy)
- identified the difference between normal cells and cancer cells (this is sensitivity)
- identified correctly who has cancer and who doesn’t (this is specificity)
The team used 2 different methods to make sure that the results were correct.
The first method showed TPI to be accurate 75 out of every 100 times (75%).
The second method showed TPI to be accurate 69 out of every 100 times (69%).
Sensitivity shows how well that test can correctly find cancer cells. A test that is highly sensitive means that there are very few false positives.
The sensitivity of TPI was:
- 86 out of every 100 times (86%) using the first method
- 87 times out of every 100 times (87%) using the second method
Specificity tells us whether the test can say correctly that there aren’t cancer cells. A test that is highly specific means that there are very few false positives.
For specificity TPI was:
- 66 out of every 100 times (66%) correct using the first method
- 54 out of every 100 times (54%) correct using the second method
Both methods showed that TPI:
- is accurate
- could identify the difference between normal and cancer cells
- could identify who has cancer and who doesn’t
The team concluded that the number of times TPI was correct is encouraging. Researchers need to larger clinical trials to:
- confirm these results
- see how well TPI can identify different breast cancers such as DCIS
- see if there is an impact on the number of second surgeries needed
More detailed information
There is more information about this research in the article below.
Use of a handheld terahertz pulsed imaging device to differentiate benign and malignant breast tissue
M. R. Grootendorst, A. J. Fitzgerald and others
BIOMEDICAL OPTICS EXPRESS, 1 Jun 2017. Volume 8, Issue 6, Pages 2932 - 2945
Where this information comes from
We have based this summary on the information in the article above. This has been reviewed by independent specialists (
How to join a clinical trial
Please note: In order to join a trial you will need to discuss it with your doctor, unless otherwise specified.
Professor A D Purushotham
Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre (ECMC)
King's College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust
Technology Strategy Board, Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)