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Automated Tumor Pathology

  • Project Leaders: Marco Marra, Robin Coope
  • Institutions: BC Cancer (Previously BC Cancer Agency (BCCA))
  • Budget: $409858
  • Program/Competition: Disruptive Innovation in Genomics
  • Genome Centre(s): Genome Canada
  • Fiscal Year: 2016
  • Status: Closed

To use genomics to aid in cancer treatment, a normal sample of the patients DNA is compared to the DNA from the cancerous tumour. This is often represented by a biopsy sample. However, biopsied tissues usually contain both tumour and normal cells, and if the proportion of tumour cells is too low, it can render the sample useless for DNA sequence analysis.  

This project aimed to implement an automated method to identify and enrich tumour cells in biopsy materials that are mixed with normal cells. This would increase the number of biopsies that can be used for DNA sequence analysis, making DNA sequencing more practical in cancer care for larger numbers of patients.  

This project developed two methods: 1) large scale laser microdissection of preserved biopsy samples; 2) coring and disaggregating biopsy tissues into individual nuclei. Using both of these methods, the team achieved up to a 67% increase in tumour content within the initial samples, and a software pipeline is ready for internal use within BC Cancer Genome Science Centre (BCGSC). The team will continue work on validating this technology with the goal of commercializing it in the future.