Raman-based cytopathology: An approach to improve diagnostic accuracy in medullary thyroid carcinoma

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Medullary thyroid carcinoma (MTC) is a rare form of thyroid malignancy that can be diagnostically challenging on fine needle aspiration (FNA) cytology. Ancillary tests such as elevated serum or immunohistochemical positive calcitonin have been helpful, yet they can occasionally provide false positive results. In search for an alternative method to improve diagnostic accuracy (DA), we applied hyperspectral Raman spectroscopy to characterize the biochemical composition of single cells from MTC and compared their spectral information to cells from other types of thyroid nodules. Hyperspectral Raman images of 117 MTC single cells from digested tissue were obtained with a line-scan hyperspectral Raman microscope and compared to 127 benign and 121 classic variant of papillary thyroid carcinoma (CVPTC) cells. When principal component analysis and linear discriminant analysis were used to classify the spectral data, MTC cells were differentiated from benign and CVPTC cells with 97% and 99% DA, respectively. In addition, MTC cells exhibited a prominent Raman peak at 1003 cm−1, whose intensity is 84% and 226% greater on average than that observed in benign and CVPTC cells, respectively. When specifically utilizing only this peak as a spectral marker, MTC cells were separated from benign and CVPTC cells with 87% and 95% DA, respectively. As this peak is linked to phenylalanine, which is known to be associated with calcitonin release in thyroid parafollicular cells, the increased intensity further suggests that this Raman peak could potentially be a new diagnostic marker for MTC. Furthermore, preliminary data from MTC cells (n=21) isolated from a simulated FNA procedure provided similar Raman signatures when compared to single cells from digestion. These results suggest that “Raman-based cytopathology” can be used as an adjunct technique to improve the diagnostic accuracy of FNA cytopathology at a single cell level.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6962-6972
Number of pages11
JournalBiomedical Optics Express
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics


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