Saturday, August 18, 2012

C-Path: Updating the Art of Pathology

An 84-year-old scoring technique pathologists use to diagnose and stage breast cancer is getting a 21st-century update from a computer model called Computational Pathologist (C-Path), which uses digital imagery and computer software to analyze more than 6,000 cell and tissue features faster and in more depth than the pathologist’s eye peering through a microscope. 

“It would not replace human pathologists, but there are things a computer can do easier than a human,” said radiation oncologist Frances Wong, M.D., chief physician for the Fraser Valley (British Columbia) Cancer Centres. Wong did not participate in C-Path’s development, but she reviewed a study about it from research teams at Stanford, Harvard, the University of British Columbia (UBC), and the Academic Medical Center in Amsterdam. 

According to a study in the November 2011 Science Translational Medicine, C-path generated prognostic scores that were “strongly associated with overall survival” in 576 patients from the Netherlands Cancer Institute (NKI) and Vancouver General Hospital (VGH). 

The best histological predictors of patient survival are not from the carcinoma itself, but from adjacent stromal connective tissue. Women with worse breast cancer outcomes tended to have inflammatory and epithelial cells in distinct, thin cords infiltrating the stroma.

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