Image-guided Coring for Large-scale Studies in Molecular Pathology

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Sampling of formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded (FFPE) tissue blocks is a critical initial step in molecular pathology. Image-guided coring (IGC) is a new method for using digital pathology images to guide tissue block coring for molecular analyses. The goal of our study is to evaluate the use of IGC for both tissue-based and nucleic acid–based projects in molecular pathology. First, we used IGC to construct a tissue microarray (TMA); second, we used IGC for FFPE block sampling followed by RNA extraction; and third, we assessed the correlation between nuclear counts quantitated from the IGC images and RNA yields. We used IGC to construct a TMA containing 198 normal and breast cancer cores. Histopathologic analysis showed high accuracy for obtaining tumor and normal breast tissue. Next, we used IGC to obtain normal and tumor breast samples before RNA extraction. We selected a random subset of tumor and normal samples to perform computational image analysis to quantify nuclear density, and we built regression models to estimate RNA yields from nuclear count, age of the block, and core diameter. Number of nuclei and core diameter were the strongest predictors of RNA yields in both normal and tumor tissue. IGC is an effective method for sampling FFPE tissue blocks for TMA construction and nucleic acid extraction. We identify significant associations between quantitative nuclear counts obtained from IGC images and RNA yields, suggesting that the integration of computational image analysis with IGC may be an effective approach for tumor sampling in large-scale molecular studies.

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