Feasibility of terahertz imaging for discrimination of human hepatocellular carcinoma

World J Gastrointest Oncol. 2019 Feb 15;11(2):153-160. doi: 10.4251/wjgo.v11.i2.153.


Background: Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is one of the most common malignant tumors worldwide, and novel methods for early/rapid diagnosis of HCC are needed. Terahertz (THz) spectroscopy is considered to have the potential to distinguish between normal liver tissue and HCC tissue; however, there are few reports on it. We conduct this observational study to explore the feasibility of THz imaging for the diagnosis of HCC.

Aim: To evaluate the feasibility of THz for discriminating between HCC and normal liver tissues using fresh tissue specimens obtained from HCC patients who had undergone surgery.

Methods: Normal liver tissue and HCC tissue were cryosectioned into 50 μm-thick slices and placed on cover glass. Two adjacent tissue sections were separated subjected to histopathological examination by hematoxylin and eosin staining or THz transmission examination, and THz images were compared with pathologically mapped images. We determined the typical tumor and normal liver tissue regions by pathological examination; the corresponding areas of adjacent sections were examined by THz transmission.

Results: The transmission rate of HCC tissue was 0.15-0.25, and the transmission rate of typical HCC tissue was about 0.2. THz transmittance in normal liver tissue is slightly higher than 0.4, but there were many influencing factors, including the degree of liver cirrhosis, fat components, ice crystals in frozen sections, and apoptosis.

Conclusion: In conclusion, this study shows that THz imaging can detect HCC tissue. Further research will yield more detailed data of the THz transmission rates of HCC tissue with different degrees of differentiation.

Keywords: Hematoxylin and eosin staining; Hepatocellular carcinoma; Liver pathology; Terahertz imaging; Terahertz transmittance.