Cover Story: Novel method for diagnosis of early-stage lung cancer: using metamaterials THz sensors
At: 2017/10/17 17:40:37 by admin

Currently, lung cancer has become one of the leading causes of cancerdeath. In many cases, the lung cancer has already spread beyond the originalsite by the time the patients have symptoms and seek medical attention. Themain reason is that early-stage lung cancer has no obvious symptoms and is verydifficult to be definitely diagnosed by general methods including bronchoscopy,mediastinoscopy, biopsy, etc. Moreover, the general methods are complicated ortime consuming. Therefore, rapid diagnosis of early-stage lung cancer is ofgreat significance.


Metamaterials (MMs) are artificial composite materials or structureswhich composed of sub-wavelength resonance unit cells. They have specialphysical properties which cannot be found in natural materials. Terahertz (THz)sensors based on the MMs are extremely sensitive to the change of surrounding dielectric.Thus they can find wide applications in biomedicine.


Because the refractive index and absorption coefficient of early-stage lungcancer tissues show very little difference from that of the normal tissues, itis very difficult to diagnose early-stage lung cancer. For the first time inthe world (to the best knowledge of the authors), the research group led byProf. Fangrong Hu from Guilin University of Electronic Technology utilized theTHz sensors based on MMs to test and diagnose the early-stage lung cancer underthe collaboration with Prof. Huasheng Liang from the Ninth Affiliated Hospitalof Guangxi Medical University. The results indicated that the THz frequencyspectra showed distinct difference when the sensors were covered with normaltissues and early-stage cancer tissues in the same thickness, and the frequencyshift was larger when the sensor was covered with cancer tissues. It couldprovide important theoretical foundation for the diagnosis of early-stage lungcancer. Therelated research results have been reported in Chinese Optics Letters, Volume 15,No. 11, 2017 (Xin Xu et al., Metamaterials-based terahertz sensor for quickdiagnosis of early lung cancer).


The proposed methodcan distinguish cancer tissues from normal tissues even though they have very closerefractive index and absorption coefficient. Compared with conventional medicalmethods and other THz methods by calculating the tissues’ refractive index andabsorption coefficient, the proposed method is very quick, simple, andlabel-free.


Prof. Hu, the director of the research group, believes that this methodis very promising for the diagnosis of not only lung cancer but also some othercancers in early-stage. It promotes the application of THz technology inbiomedicine.


Further work will be focused on the design of novel MMs THz sensors withhigher sensitivity, and the application in the diagnosis of other cancers in early-stage.

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