Real-time diagnosis and visualization of tumor margins in excised breast specimens using fluorescence lifetime imaging and machine learning

Jakob Unger, Christoph Hebisch, Jennifer E. Phipps, João L. Lagarto, Hanna Kim, Morgan A. Darrow, Richard J. Bold, Laura Marcu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Tumor-free surgical margins are critical in breast-conserving surgery. In up to 38% of the cases, however, patients undergo a second surgery since malignant cells are found at the margins of the excised resection specimen. Thus, advanced imaging tools are needed to ensure clear margins at the time of surgery. The objective of this study was to evaluate a random forest classifier that makes use of parameters derived from point-scanning label-free fluorescence lifetime imaging (FLIm) measurements of breast specimens as a means to diagnose tumor at the resection margins and to enable an intuitive visualization of a probabilistic classifier on tissue specimen. FLIm data from fresh lumpectomy and mastectomy specimens from 18 patients were used in this study. The supervised training was based on a previously developed registration technique between autofluorescence imaging data and cross-sectional histology slides. A pathologist's histology annotations provide the ground truth to distinguish between adipose, fibrous, and tumor tissue. Current results demonstrate the ability of this approach to classify the tumor with 89% sensitivity and 93% specificity and to rapidly (∼ 20 frames per second) overlay the probabilistic classifier overlaid on excised breast specimens using an intuitive color scheme. Furthermore, we show an iterative imaging refinement that allows surgeons to switch between rapid scans with a customized, low spatial resolution to quickly cover the specimen and slower scans with enhanced resolution (400 µm per point measurement) in suspicious regions where more details are required. In summary, this technique provides high diagnostic prediction accuracy, rapid acquisition, adaptive resolution, nondestructive probing, and facile interpretation of images, thus holding potential for clinical breast imaging based on label-free FLIm.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1216-1230
Number of pages15
JournalBiomedical Optics Express
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics


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