New Ways of Diagnosing Stomach Cancer


The terahertz radiation frequency spectrum lies between the infrared spectrum (which is used in TV remotes) and the microwave spectrum (used for Wi-Fi, GSM and microwave ovens). This radiation is intensely absorbed by metals and travels lightly through the majority of dielectrics. Despite these facts it doesn’t have the devastating effects of ionizing. Because of that, terahertz technologies have great potential for  practical use. They will be very helpful for the creation of safer alternatives to X-rays. Moreover, in some airports terahertz detectors are used to look for weapons and smuggling units.

The only disadvantage here is that the process of terahertz wave generation is very complex. Energy-efficient sources for producing such waves appeared not so long ago. In Russia such types of technologies are mostly used in laboratories.

One of those laboratories is the Terahertz Biomedicine Laboratory at ITMO University. In this laboratory students are learning how to use terahertz radiation for medical purposes (for diagnosing diseases or measurement of blood glucose level).

For example, young scientists, Svyatoslav Gusev and Maria Borovkova, developed a noninvasive blood glucose meter. Using this device, diabetics avoid painful needles. It also cuts down expenses associated with blood tests. Their colleague, Anna Goryachuk, is studying the use of terahertz waves for cancer diagnostics.

“Terahertz radiation is intensely absorbed by water. It is bad news if you want to transfer signals, but extremely good one if you are dealing with medicine. Cancerous growths have a lot of liquid inside and because of this it adsorbs waves more intensively than healthy tissues. In fact, this is the basis of my work. The difference between damaged and healthy tissues becomes obvious early on in the process” – Anna explains.

Anna Goryachuk and her colleagues work in collaboration with Pavlov First Saint Petersburg State Medical University at the International Scientific Laboratory “Radiational Medicine”.

The present research is focused on stomach cancer diagnostics. In this case abdominal fluid adsorbs the signal and the task here is about comparing the intensity of reflected signals and their special optical features. Now all the experiments are carried out on a fairly cumbersome academic layout. As a result engineers plan to create a compact device for non-invasive stomach cancer diagnostics. In this device both generator and detector of radiation will be included in the construction of the endoscope.

A mobile reflectometer will allow searching of affected tissues during surgery. The work on terahertz stomach cancer diagnostics will be continued. In the future the project will be possibly supplemented with other methods of cancer diagnostics.