The University of Liverpool has been awarded £3.2 million to develop new diagnostic tests for cervical, oesophageal and prostate cancer patients.
These cancers are difficult to detect at an early stage as symptoms only become apparent when the tumours become large.
Research at Liverpool has already shown that infra-red electron laser technology could diagnose the presence of oesophageal cancer, but more work is needed to understand the changes within individual cells prior to cancer development.
Funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) will allow researchers to use a unique and extremely intense source of infrared light (the Infrared Free Electron Laser) using the Science and Technology Facilities Council's ALICE facility to identify changes within and surrounding cells which indicate a tumour. They will develop equipment in the terahertz region of the electromagnetic spectrum to facilitate the design of cheap portable instruments for cancer diagnosis.
Liverpool Professor of Physics, Peter Weightman, said: "Researchers in clinical and physical sciences are exploring how to identify, at a very early stage, the chemical changes in cells which lead to the development of cancer.
"The funding will allow us to further develop, test and apply our diagnostic technique to cervical and prostate cancers. Early diagnosis is the most important thing when treating cancers and we hope this new technique will result in new instrumentation that will directly benefit patients."
Gastric cancer specialist, Professor Andrea Varro, from the University's Institute of Translational Medicine, said: "The technology we are using provides a unique opportunity to detect alterations in both cancer and the surrounding stromal cells which indicate tumour progression, thereby helping diagnosis and the development of therapies."