Significance: Needle biopsy (NB) procedures are important for the initial diagnosis of many types of cancer. However, the possibility of NB specimens being unable to provide diagnostic information, (i.e., non-diagnostic sampling) and the time-consuming histological evaluation process can cause delays in diagnoses that affect patient care. Aim: We aim to demonstrate the advantages of this label-free multimodal nonlinear optical imaging (NLOI) technique as a non-destructive point-of-procedure evaluation method for NB tissue cores, for the visualization and characterization of the tissue microenvironment. Approach: A portable, label-free, multimodal NLOI system combined second-harmonic generation (SHG) and third-harmonic generation and two- and three-photon autofluorescence (2PF, 3PF) microscopy. It was used for intraoperative imaging of fresh NB tissue cores acquired during canine cancer surgeries, which involved liver, lung, and mammary tumors as well as soft-tissue sarcoma; in total, eight canine patients were recruited. An added tissue culture chamber enabled the use of this NLOI system for longitudinal imaging of fresh NB tissue cores taken from an induced rat mammary tumor and healthy mouse livers. Results: The intraoperative NLOI system was used to assess fresh canine NB specimens during veterinary cancer surgeries. Histology-like morphological features were visualized by the combination of four NLOI modalities at the point-of-procedure. The NLOI results provided quantitative information on the tissue microenvironment such as the collagen fiber orientation using Fourier-domain SHG analysis and metabolic profiling by optical redox ratio (ORR) defined by 2PF/(2PF + 3PF). The analyses showed that the canine mammary tumor had more randomly oriented collagen fibers compared to the tumor margin, and hepatocarcinoma had a wider distribution of ORR with a lower mean value compared to the liver fibrosis and the normal-appearing liver. Moreover, the loss of metabolic information during tissue degradation of fresh murine NB specimens was shown by overall intensity decreases in all channels and an increase of mean ORR from 0.94 (standard deviation 0.099) to 0.97 (standard deviation 0.077) during 1-h longitudinal imaging of a rat mammary tumor NB specimen. The tissue response to staurosporine (STS), an apoptotic inducer, from fresh murine liver NB specimens was also observed. The mean ORR decreased from 0.86 to 0.74 in the first 40 min and then increased to 0.8 during the rest of the hour of imaging, compared to the imaging results without the addition of STS, which showed a continuous increase of ORR from 0.72 to 0.75. Conclusions: A label-free, multimodal NLOI platform reveals microstructural and metabolic information of the fresh NB cores during intraoperative cancer imaging. This system has been demonstrated on animal models to show its potential to provide a more comprehensive histological assessment and a better understanding of the unperturbed tumor microenvironment. Considering tissue degradation, or loss of viability upon fixation, this intraoperative NLOI system has the advantage of immediate assessment of freshly excised tissue specimens at the point of procedure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number056504
JournalJournal of biomedical optics
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2022


  • cancer diagnosis
  • intraoperative imaging
  • label-free imaging
  • nonlinear optical microscopy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Biomaterials


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