Cancer is among the main causes for death in the EU. According to Eurostat more than 350,000 cancer-related surgeries in Germany and France were carried out in 2016 only. All surgeries face the same challenge: Was all cancerous tissue removed from the patient? Answering this question reliably during the surgery itself is vital, but unfortunately not possible today. The SRHisto project aims at overcoming this challenge by developing a label free technology to provide real time images of cancerous tissue directly in the operatory room. Conventional HES (haematoxylin, eosin and saffron) histopathology, currently the ‘gold-standard’ for pathological diagnosis of cancer, requires extensive sample preparations that are achieved within time scales (<24h) that are not compatible with intra-operative situations where quick decisions must be taken.
The most promising method for artificial HES imaging is based on the nonlinear microscopy method called Stimulated Raman Scattering (SRS). SRS does not require staining. Thus the sample is unperturbed and can be used for the classical HES protocol and archiving after imaging. SRS is also capable of 3-dimensional imaging not requiring thin samples, thus avoiding cutting artefacts. Over the last 5 years, histology using SRS has been demonstrated by several groups, including the SRHisto consortium, and a US based startup built a first microscope based on this concept. However, the published results are based on complex optical setups or suffer from high noise levels due to the light sources used not compatible with intraoperative diagnosis.
The SRHisto project will break through these barriers by developing innovative stimulated Raman histology (SRH) building blocks to provide the pathologists HES quality images in less than 30 minutes. By speeding up by two orders of magnitude conventional HES we anticipate that the SRHisto technology will be a game changer to detect tumour tissue in an intraoperative context where quick decisions must be taken. In using the latest advances in optical parametric oscillators based source, fast modulation schemes, shot noise limited electronics together with computer assisted virtual HES tissue staining, the SRHisto project will provide for the first time intraoperative SRH images with in near-perfect concordance with conventional HES histology. To demonstrate the power of the developed technologies both human brain and gastro-intestinal healthy and cancer tissue samples will be imaged, assess with practitioners and compared to standard HES images. The SRHisto project brings together the expertise of APE GmbH in building SRS light sources and detection schemes together with the Institut Fresnel that has been developing coherent Raman imaging over the last decade. The consortium is ready to move forward towards the development of a commercial SRH histopathology system after the successful completion of the SRHisto project.