Pathologists are charged with the task of studying biopsy samples from patients to diagnose disease and to aid in disease management. While lung cancer pathology is becoming increasingly more complex as we learn about different biomarkers and develop targeted therapies for lung cancer patients, the fundamentals of pathology have not changed much. Pathology slides continue to be the gold standard for studying biopsy samples, and pathologists are finding ways to combine traditional pathology with digital technology to improve outcomes for patients.
With the development of tele-pathology equipment, it has become possible for experts to weigh-in remotely and discuss patient care at regional health care centers. This tele-pathology approach, which is similar to a webinar, makes it easier to get second opinions on patient samples even when the experts are far away or otherwise unavailable for an in-person consultation. “Clinical pathologists can use cameras mounted on microscopes to share what they see with other pathologists in the same room, in the same institution, or even in another country,” says Edward Gabrielson, MD, attending pathologist and professor of pathology at John Hopkins Medicine, and a member of the LUNGevity Scientific Advisory Board.
In addition to tele-pathology, researchers are harnessing super-computing technology to make high-resolution virtual microscopy slides that can be transmitted and stored electronically. These virtual slides, which are ultra-high-resolution scans of standard pathology slides, can be preserved as permanent records. With virtual slides, pathologists can scan around the tissue and zoom in and out as needed, just as they do with actual glass slides.
Researchers are also developing software that can be used in conjunction with virtual slides to perform quantitative analyses for research projects. “In fact, as part of an international clinical trial, we are the main pathology lab reviewing the images. We are being sent virtual slides from across the globe to review and study here,” explains Dr. Gabrielson.
“It is impressive that we can now scan and store images at such a high resolution that we can open up the virtual slide files and study them as if they were actual slides,” says Dr. Gabrielson. “Really, it is just the tip of the iceberg for how we will use this technology.”
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Juhi Kunde, MA, is a science writer for LUNGevity.