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Earlier Diagnosis of Melanoma May Soon Become Possible Using T-Rays

By BiotechDaily International staff writers
Posted on 23 Sep 2013
Image: Layers of skin can be probed with terahertz rays in search of signs of skin cancer at its earliest stages of development (Photo courtesy of the [US] National Cancer Institute).
Image: Layers of skin can be probed with terahertz rays in search of signs of skin cancer at its earliest stages of development (Photo courtesy of the [US] National Cancer Institute).
New imaging technology has great potential to diagnose cancer at its earliest and most treatable stages.

Anis Rahman, PhD, president and chief technology officer of Applied Research & Photonics (Harrisburg, PA, USA), reported that malignant melanoma, the most lethal type of skin cancer, begins in pigment-producing cells located in the deepest part of the epidermis (the outer layer of the skin). Biochemical alterations are key characteristics of cancer occur in the melanocytes a long time before mole-like melanomas appear on the skin.

“Terahertz radiation is ideal for looking beneath the skin and detecting early signs of melanoma,” Dr. Rahman said. “T-rays are different from X-rays, which are ‘ionizing’ radiation that can cause damage. T-rays are a form of nonionizing radiation, like ordinary visible light, but they can be focused harmlessly below into the body and capture biochemical signatures of events like the start of cancer.”

T-rays occupy a position in the spectrum of electromagnetic radiation, which includes visible light and X-rays, between microwaves and infrared rays. One of the benefits of T-rays is that they penetrate only a few millimeters through skin, cloth, and other nonmetallic material.

Dr. Rahman’s research on T-rays was made through donated samples of human skin, suggesting that the technology could be valuable in diagnosing melanoma. In addition to developing T-rays for cancer diagnostics, Dr. Rahman’s team has effectively utilized them to measure the real-time absorption rates and penetration in the outer layer of skin of topically applied drugs—measurements that until now had not been possible.

Dr. Rahman presented his findings at a symposium held at the annual American Chemical Society (ACS) 2013 meeting, held September 11, 2013, in Indianapolis (IN, USA).

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