James Team Breaks New Ground with Digital Pathology Cancer Diagnosis


The OSUCCC – James team continues to make progress toward implementing digital pathology technologies into research and patient care at Ohio State. On March 1, Anil Parwani, MD, PhD, completed the first primary cancer diagnosis of a patient using the digital pathology platform. The sample had been sent for suspected prostate cancer, based on an elevated serum PSA (prostate-specific antigen). The patient was deemed to have benign disease.

Also known as “whole-slide imaging,” digital pathology is the process of scanning conventional glass slides and then digitally knitting consecutive images into a single, whole image that replicates the information on the glass slide. This virtual image is paired with associated clinical information to give pathologists an integrated picture of each patient’s unique cancer.

Pathologists can then perform additional diagnostics, including image analysis tests that are not possible on traditional glass slides. These enhanced images can be viewed, annotated and interpreted on a computer with the combined benefit of the pathologist’s trained eye and predictive algorithms.

Although full clinical integration of digital pathology is not expected until July 2019, the OSUCCC – James pathology team has made significant progress in converting current and past pathology patient slides into the digital platform. Since the program launched in May 2017, more than 420,000 slides have been converted to a digital format. The team will convert the past seven years of patient pathology slides from the OSUCCC – James. This archive of data will then be de-identified and made available for research associated with clinical data.

To fully implement digital pathology technology into clinical use at the OSUCCC – James, all eight digital pathology scanners must be validated for accuracy. This process involves having a trained pathologist review 60 pathology cases on glass slides and then, after a washout period of at least two weeks, make a diagnosis based only on digital slides.

While this validation is underway, a small group of pathologists who are “early adopters” of the digital pathology technology are completing training on the platform. The rest of the more than 40 pathology faculty will also be trained to utilize digital pathology.

Research During Implementation

Parwani, who leads the digital pathology effort at Ohio State, has put a research protocol in place to document the impact of digital pathology on accuracy and expediency of diagnosis.

“We believe digital pathology has great potential to improve the accuracy of cancer diagnoses, especially for cancers that occur less frequently. We also expect the technology to make the pathologist’s job more efficient, and that will benefit patients through more expedient answers so they can move forward with treatment decisions,” says Parwani.

Learn more about digital pathology program at the OSUCCC – James here.