Semi-Automated Computational Assessment of Cancer Organoid Viability Using Rapid Live-Cell Microscopy

Joseph D. Buehler, Cylaina E. Bird, Milan R. Savani, Lauren C. Gattie, William H. Hicks, Michael M. Levitt, Mohamad El Shami, Kimmo J. Hatanpaa, Timothy E. Richardson, Samuel K. McBrayer, Kalil G. Abdullah

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


The creation of patient-derived cancer organoids represents a key advance in preclinical modeling and has recently been applied to a variety of human solid tumor types. However, conventional methods used to assess in vivo tumor tissue treatment response are poorly suited for the evaluation of cancer organoids because they are time-intensive and involve tissue destruction. To address this issue, we established a suite of 3-dimensional patient-derived glioma organoids, treated them with chemoradiotherapy, stained organoids with non-toxic cell dyes, and imaged them using a rapid laser scanning confocal microscopy method termed “Apex Imaging.” We then developed and tested a fragmentation algorithm to quantify heterogeneity in the topography of the organoids as a potential surrogate marker of viability. This algorithm, SSDquant, provides a 3-dimensional visual representation of the organoid surface and a numerical measurement of the sum-squared distance (SSD) from the derived mass center of the organoid. We tested whether SSD scores correlate with traditional immunohistochemistry-derived cell viability markers (cellularity and cleaved caspase 3 expression) and observed statistically significant associations between them using linear regression analysis. Our work describes a quantitative, non-invasive approach for the serial measurement of patient-derived cancer organoid viability, thus opening new avenues for the application of these models to studies of cancer biology and therapy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalCancer Informatics
StatePublished - 2022


  • Organoids
  • cancer informatics
  • confocal microscopy
  • glioblastoma
  • glioma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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