Erasmus Medical Centre speeds up cancer research with digital
24 September 2012
Erasmus MC is the first hospital in the Netherlands to switch
to a digital system for their laboratory analysis of cell and tissue
This switch to digital, which at the moment is for research
and education, will ultimately speed up and improve the diagnosis
and treatment of cancer and other diseases.
Erasmus MC is working with Philips, which has developed
technology for rapid scanning, image processing and analysis that
makes it possible to obtain digital images of suspect tissue at very
high resolution. This enables medical researchers to view the images
efficiently from any given workplace and to gain new insight into
diseases such as cancer.
If cancer is suspected in a patient, tissue is removed surgically
or by means of a biopsy. The tissue is then examined by a
pathologist at microscopic level and sometimes also tested at
molecular level. This makes it possible to ascertain whether or not
the tissue is cancerous and, if so, to what extent the cancer is
malignant. This process also plays a very important role in the
analysis of large numbers of test samples for experimental cancer
research in order to gain a better understanding of the causes and
mechanisms of diseases at cellular and molecular level. These new
insights may enable new diagnostic approaches and therapeutic
The analysis of small tissue samples can create quite a problem
in medical investigations. A great deal of time and effort is spent
sending, recording and processing the hundreds of microscope slides
of tissue samples. Consultation with a colleague at another location
can be a lengthy process, as the tissue slide first has to be sent
over by courier, with the added risk of damage or loss.
Digital scanning of slides
By scanning the tissue slide using the very fast Philips digital
pathology system, the examining pathologist can gain direct access
to the digital files and the work can be distributed more
effectively among the available researchers. Cancer cells in the
tissue can be identified and analyzed quickly using advanced image
analysis software. It also becomes easy to share information and
images with cancer research institutes all over the world.
"In recent years the demand for cell and tissue examination has
risen enormously with more complex cases," says Peter Riegman PhD,
Head of the Erasmus MC Tissue Bank. "The changeover in the future to
digital pathology will help our team of pathologists, biomedical
researchers, technical specialists as well as the management team to
ensure we maintain our high standard and further speed up
experimental medical research."
"For over a hundred years now pathologists have used an optical
microscope to examine the stained tissue on a microscope slide,"
says Perry van Rijsingen, General Manager of Philips Digital
Pathology. "By integrating digital pathology in the existing
information system at the research laboratory, Erasmus MC now has at
its disposal a digital platform that offers new opportunities for
intensive cooperation in education and research with other
disciplines such as radiology."
The Philips system for digital pathology consists of an
ultra-fast scanner and image management system with software for
viewing, analyzing and interpreting the images. At Erasmus MC the
changeover from analog to digital will be made first in experimental
research and pathology education, and this may well be followed by
digital diagnostics in the coming years.