Second harmonic generation microscopy is a novel technique for differential diagnosis of breast fibroepithelial lesions

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Breast fibroepithelial lesions, including fibroadenomas and phyllodes tumours, are commonly encountered in clinical practice. As histological differences between these two related entities may be subtle, resulting in a challenging differential diagnosis, pathological techniques to assist the differential diagnosis of these two entities are of high interest. An accurate diagnosis at biopsy is important given corresponding implications for clinical decision-making including surgical extent and monitoring. Second harmonic generation (SHG) microscopy is a recently developed optical imaging technique capable of robust, powerful and unbiased label-free direct detection of collagen fibril structure in tissue without the use of antibodies. We constructed tissue microarrays emulating limited materials on biopsy to investigate quantitative collagen signal in fibroepithelial lesions using SHG microscopy. Archived formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded materials of 47 fibroepithelial lesions (14 fibroadenomas and 33 phyllodes tumours) were evaluated. Higher collagen signal on SHG microscopy was observed in fibroadenomas than phyllodes tumours on SHG imaging (p<0.001, area under the curve 0.859). At an automated threshold (2.5 million positive pixels), the sensitivity and specificity of the SHG microscopy for fibroadenoma classification was 71.4% and 84.4%, respectively. To corroborate these findings, we performed immunohistochemistry on tissue array sections using collagen I and III primary antibodies. Both collagen I and III immunohistochemical expressions were also significantly higher in fibroadenomas than in phyllodes tumours (p<0.001). In conclusion, label-free collagen quantitation on SHG microscopy is a novel imaging approach that can aid the differential diagnosis of fibroepithelial lesions.

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