French Cancer Research Institute mandates Clemex to build specialised imaging system

Vandoeuvre-lès-Nancy 17 July 2001The Centre Alexis Vautrin, one of the 20 French National Cancer Research Institutes, based at the Université Henri Poincaré in Nancy, has entered into an agreement with Clemex Technologies Inc., an expert in quantitative microscopy, located in Montréal, Canada, to build a prototype imaging system designed for the automatic analysis of cancer cell spheroids. In the centre's Oncology Research Laboratory, the activity is mainly focused on in vitro and in vivo pre-clinical evaluation of the photodynamic therapy as a new modality for cancer treatment. Experiments are performed in relation with the pharmaceutical industry with a view to accelerate the clinical development of new drugs.


Spheroids are three-dimensional aggregates of tumour cells coming from one or several cell clones. The use of spheroids is a fairly new method for testing cancer treatments including chemotherapy, radiation, and photodynamic (PDT) therapy. PDT therapy involves the administration of a photosensitiser which induces a cytototoxic effect after exposure to light at the appropriate wavelength. The photosensitiser is retained in the tumour as well as in the surrounding tissue. The estimation of the maximum dye accumulation in the tumour is one of the ways to optimise PDT treatment.

Presently, human operators manually analyse spheroids using a microscope. The proposed imaging prototype will automate the process by integrating a robotic arm for the manipulation and placement of micro-plates, and a motorised microscope stage, coupled with specialised Clemex software, that is designed to detect and quantify objects of interest on multiple fields and samples.

"We believe that the application of this new technology for the analysis of the spheroid populations will significantly increase their experimental use", stated Dr. Merlin, Head of the Oncology Research Laboratory of the Centre Alexis Vautrin. "Where a person may be able to analyse only a few tens of samples per day, the new automated system will analyse the same amount in a fraction of the time, 20 to 50-fold shorter. In addition, subjectivity is eliminated along with transcription errors."

According to Clement Forget, President and CEO of Clemex Technologies, "the introduction of this new apparatus will play an important role in accelerating the process of cancer research for this particular application. From a market development perspective, we are confident that the building of this prototype will facilitate our efforts in further expanding the biological and pharmaceutical side of our business."

The Centre Alexis Vautrin is located 350 km east from Paris and was created by Dr. Alexis Vautrin in 1924. With approximately six hundred employees, the activity of this 153-bed hospital is devoted to cancer treatment with some 20.000 medical examinations per year, to research including clinical as well as experimental research and biomedical engineering, and to a number of educational programmes at the Université Henri Poincaré.

Leslie Versweyveld

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