High-Resolution Microscopy for Imaging Cancer Pathobiology

  • Yang LiuEmail author
  • Jianquan Xu
Update on Technological Innovations for Cancer Detection and Treatment (T Dickherber, Section Editor)
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Topical Collection on Update on Technological Innovations for Cancer Detection and Treatment


Purpose of Review

Light microscopy plays an essential role in clinical diagnosis and understanding the pathogenesis of cancer. Conventional bright-field microscope is used to visualize abnormality in tissue architecture and nuclear morphology, but often suffers from many limitations. This review focuses on the potential of new imaging techniques to improve basic and clinical research in pathobiology.

Recent Findings

Light microscopy has significantly expanded its ability in resolution, imaging volume, speed, and contrast. It now allows 3D high-resolution volumetric imaging of tissue architecture from large tissue and molecular structures at nanometer resolution.


Pathologists and researchers now have access to various imaging tools to study cancer pathobiology in both breadth and depth. Although clinical adoption of a new technique is slow, the new imaging tools will provide significant new insights and open new avenues for improving early cancer detection and personalized risk assessment and identifying the best treatment strategies.


Light microscopy 3D volumetric imaging Super-resolution microscopy Label-free imaging 



Due to the large body of literatures, we cannot cover all of the related topics and publications. We acknowledge Dr. Hongbin Ma for preparing Fig. 2d. We apologize to researchers whose work is missed in this review.

Funding Information

We acknowledge the funding support from National Institute of Health Grant Numbers R01CA185363 and R33CA225494.

Compliance With Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

Jianquan Xu declares no conflict of interest. Yang Liu is the co-inventor for several US patents on light microscopy techniques to analyze nanoscale nuclear architecture for cancer diagnosis and other applications, owned by the University of Pittsburgh.

Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent

This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Biomedical Optical Imaging Laboratory, Departments of Medicine and BioengineeringUniversity of PittsburghPittsburghUSA

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