Medical researchers at the 23rd annual San
Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium reported the results of a study showing that automated cell imaging adapted from Star Wars
missile-shield technology aids physicians in selecting drug therapy for breast
Until recently, laboratories have relied on manual evaluation of
tumor sections by viewing a glass slide under a microscope to determine the
presence of the cancer-related protein HER2. Amounts of HER2 are elevated in
approximately 30% of patients previously diagnosed with breast cancer.
"New cancer therapies that target specific proteins require
very precise methods to determine which patients will benefit from these
drugs," said Kenneth Bloom, md, the study’s principal investigator and
director of laboratory operations at Rush Presbyterian-St. Luke’s Medical
Center in Chicago. "The new automated imaging system used in this study
helps to address these demands."
The study assessed the reliability of different
immunohistochemistry techniques to qualify patients for treatment with
trastuzumab (Herceptin), which targets HER2 overexpression.
Automated Cell Imaging
In the study, 10 pathologists calculated the more than 1,250
staining intensity scores of 130 breast cancer patient samples using the
standard manual technique and a technique involving an automated cell-imaging
system, or ACIS (a recently introduced technology developed by ChromaVision
Medical Systems Inc). The pathologists represented a broad range of experience
in evaluating HER2 expression.
A comparison of results showed that pathologists improved their
accuracy from a range of 42% to 92% with manual immunohistochemistry, to 91% to
95% using ACIS-assisted cell-imaging technology. Moreover, their scoring
reproducibility increased from 72% with manual immunohistochemistry to 95% when
assisted by ACIS.
The concept behind the ACIS technology was developed by the
military to detect the potential deployment of nuclear missiles. "At the
heart of the technology is color-transformation software that allows one to
differentiate active warheads from thousands of decoys," said Douglas
Harrington, md, ChromaVision’s CEO and chairman. "We acquired the patent
rights to this technology and adapted it to detect, count, and classify cells of
clinical interest based on color, size, and shape. I find it poetic that now
this technology is being applied to health care rather than war."