Mammary tumors in Sprague Dawley rats induced by N-ethyl-N-nitrosourea for evaluating terahertz imaging of breast cancer

Nagma Vohra, Tanny Chavez, Joel R. Troncoso, Narasimhan Rajaram, Jingxian Wu, Patricia N. Coan, Todd A. Jackson, Keith Bailey, Magda El-Shenawee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: The objective of this study is to quantitatively evaluate terahertz (THz) imaging for differentiating cancerous from non-cancerous tissues in mammary tumors developed in response to injection of N-ethyl-N-nitrosourea (ENU) in Sprague Dawley rats. Approach: While previous studies have investigated the biology of mammary tumors of this model, the current work is the first study to employ an imaging modality to visualize these tumors. A pulsed THz imaging system is utilized to experimentally collect the time-domain reflection signals from each pixel of the rat's excised tumor. A statistical segmentation algorithm based on the expectation-maximization (EM) classification method is implemented to quantitatively assess the obtained THz images. The model classification of cancer is reported in terms of the receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curves and the areas under the curves. Results: The obtained low-power microscopic images of 17 ENU-rat tumor sections exhibited the presence of healthy connective tissue adjacent to cancerous tissue. The results also demonstrated that high reflection THz signals were received from cancerous compared with non-cancerous tissues. Decent tumor classification was achieved using the EM method with values ranging from 83% to 96% in fresh tissues and 89% to 96% in formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded tissues. Conclusions: The proposed ENU breast tumor model of Sprague Dawley rats showed a potential to obtain cancerous tissues, such as human breast tumors, adjacent to healthy tissues. The implemented EM classification algorithm quantitatively demonstrated the ability of THz imaging in differentiating cancerous from non-cancerous tissues.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number023504
JournalJournal of Medical Imaging
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1 2021


  • ENU-rat tumor induction
  • Sprague Dawley rats
  • Terahertz imaging
  • breast cancer
  • expectation-maximization classification method
  • microscopic imaging
  • reflection mode

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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