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Open Scheme Report: Karin Oien

Equipment purchase with funding contribution from Open Scheme
Applicant: Karin Oien, University of Glasgow. Amount awarded: £5,000 towards funding of slide scanner and image analysis system

In 2008, the Pathological Society generously awarded £5,000 towards a digital slide scanner and image analysis system which has now been installed in the Division of Cancer Sciences and Molecular Pathology, University of Glasgow.

After specification and tendering in spring 2008, the system chosen was the Hamamatsu Nanozoomer Digital Pathology (NDP) slide scanner with digital slide management/image analysis software from Slidepath (Dublin). Total costs were similar to those for the Ariol system also considered.  The bulk of the funds were provided through fund-raising efforts of the “Think Pink” ladies who support breast cancer research.

The Hamamatsu scanner offers high-throughput scanning of bright-field and fluorescence slides to produce high quality images for pathologists, histologists and scientists.  We thought this scanner was technically one the best on the market in our price range.  The system can be used for image sharing, remote diagnosis and collaboration, education and presentations, and offers Z-stack scanning which allows focusing comparable to that of a real microscope.

Software from Slidepath facilitates scoring and sharing of scanned images within and beyond the Division.  The images are stored on a server and can be viewed over the internet, via password-protection, from any computer.  Slidepath offers databasing and integration of digital images with clinical data.  It has a custom module (OpTMA) for tissue microarray (TMA) images.  Slidepath also offers tissue image analysis.

Use so far
We have found the system efficient and valuable.  It is operated and maintained by our Tissue Microarray Facility as TMAs are an important (but far from only) area of application. 

Slides for scanning are logged by a BMS2 dedicated to the Divisional TMA facility, Ms Clare Orange.  Digitised slide images are up-loaded to the Divisional server for remote access within or outwith the Slidepath software. We have successfully scanned slides of a wide range of tissue types, including pancreatic, cervical and breast microarrays, through whole-mount mouse mammary glands stained by immunohistochemistry (IHC) to double-stained immunofluorescence.  For the last, the system allows permanent storage of sections that would fade over time.  The system is enabling and enhancing collaborations between research groups in our Division, the University, and in and beyond the UK.  Some examples follow:

Scanning of whole sections is currently facilitating quality assurance.  It is enabling international expert review within a gynaecological cancer clinical trial and is being trialled as a mechanism of educational slide presentation in the Scotland and Northern Ireland General Pathology External Quality Assurance (EQA) Scheme.

In more translational research, a current study involves a gene identified by a Beatson Institute (Glasgow) research group.  An IHC assay has been developed and expression of the gene is being examined in a cohort of patients with squamous cervical cancer from Groningen in the Netherlands, using TMAs which were originally made some years ago here in Glasgow as a collaboration.  The stained sections have been scanned and the Slidepath software enables remote, on-line viewing and (manual) scoring of these slides by multiple observers.  The scores are automatically linked to the TMA grids.  We then download these in Excel format and import them into SPSS for linking with the anonymised clinical, pathological and outcome data.  Similar projects are currently underway in breast and pancreatic cancer and with general tumour arrays for gene profiling.
As well as manual scoring, we are working with previously developed Slidepath image analysis algorithms to obtain expression and histoscore-type expression data from IHC-stained tissue sections and TMAs.  This is working well for nuclear antibodies.  The (semi-)automated scoring of membranous antibodies is currently under evaluation and optimisation.  Cytoplasmic staining is more difficult to assess automatically on a per-cell (histoscore-type) basis but methods are in development and we hope to generate and apply additional algorithms in collaboration with Slidepath as our needs expand. Application in the field of Her2 testing is also being explored.
The acquisition of this system has provided opportunities for improvement and expansion in both clinical and research fields.   We are excited about projects and advancements that are now feasible and would like to thank the Pathological Society for their contribution which helped to make this possible.

Clare at Workstation

Clare Orange working at the scanner station


Example images from the scanner: immunostained tissue


…and after image analysis, showing selection of tissue.


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