New camera sets sights on improving cancer detection

Oct 01, 2019

A new high quality image capturing camera-microscope is a welcome addition to the London Regional Cytology Training Centre (LRCTC), a world class teaching facility for cancer screening professionals, located at Northwick Park Hospital.

Originally set up in 1979 by Dr Elizabeth Hudson, the LRCTC is one of only four centres in the UK providing specialised training to bio-medical professionals and pathologists looking to study and screen cell abnormalities indicative of diseases such as cancer.

Training concentrates on educating healthcare professionals to identify, as early as possible, the often subtle changes in cells that could be precursors to cancer. The task can often be very difficult, with a single sample containing over 50,000 cells of which only a few may display abnormal changes.

Centre Manager, Mark Terry, explains:

“Being able to recognise these pre-cancerous changes and recommend the right treatments for patients is vital. It isn’t necessarily the number of cells in a sample that display anomalies, but rather the degree of structural abnormality in the individual cells themselves, which can make the job even more difficult, and is the reason high quality training and imaging is so important’.

The new, cutting edge camera, purchased through voluntary income to the Centre’s charitable fund, creates images of cells by stacking together hundreds of highly focused slices, making every area of the cell clearer and easier to study.

With a standard camera the group of cells look slightly blurred and out of focus due to the multiple layers within the group. However, with the new camera set-up, the Centre is able to focus on cells lying deeper within the group and make a better diagnostic assessment of the cell change.

Dr Tanya Levine, LRCTC Director, explains:

“The camera adds depth and more planes of focus, rapidly building up different focal points throughout the sample and layering them together to compile a sharper, more complete image of the cells. We can now see delicate changes that wouldn’t necessarily have been picked up by standard camera-microscopes – and it is done so quickly we are able to carry out real time photography as reports are being written.”

The incredibly detailed images Tanya takes are used in presentations, lectures, training and in medical publications. Disseminating this information improves the training ofhighly skilled professionals within pathology, allowing the early detection of abnormal cells and reducing error rates.

You can find out more about the LRCTC and its work by visiting

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