A study testing a device to check for remaining cancer cells during surgery for early breast cancer

Cancer type:

Breast cancer

Status:

Results

Phase:

Phase 1

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 lymph nodes Open a glossary item under your arm.

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

For early stage Open a glossary item breast cancer, you might have surgery to remove just the area of cancer. This is a wide local excision or lumpectomy. The aim is to remove all the cancer and about 1 cm of normal tissue surrounding it. The surgeon sends the tissue to the laboratory for a pathologist Open a glossary item to check. To make sure there are no cancer cells in the surrounding tissue. This is a clear margin.

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. 

Study design
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. 

Results
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. 

Accuracy

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 
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
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

Conclusion
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 (peer reviewed Open a glossary item) and published in a medical journal. We have not analysed the data ourselves. As far as we are aware, the link we list above is active and the article is free and available to view.

Recruitment start:

Recruitment end:

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.

Please note - unless we state otherwise in the summary, you need to talk to your doctor about joining a trial.

Chief Investigator

Professor A D Purushotham

Supported by

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)
TeraView

Freephone 0808 800 4040

Last review date

CRUK internal database number:

5952

Please note - unless we state otherwise in the summary, you need to talk to your doctor about joining a trial.

Caroline took part in a clinical trial for breast cancer

“I had treatment last year and I want to give something back.”

Last reviewed:

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