Background: Cancers are heterogeneous and contain various types of irregular structures that can go undetected when examining them with standard two-dimensional microscopes. Studies of intricate networks of vasculature systems, e.g., the tumour lymphatic microvessels, benefit largely from three-dimensional imaging data analysis. Methods: The new DIPCO (Diagnosing Immunolabeled Paraffin-Embedded Cleared Organs) imaging platform uses three-dimensional light-sheet microscopy and whole-mount immunolabelling of cleared samples to study proteins and micro-anatomies deep inside of tumours. Results: Here, we uncovered the whole three-dimensional lymphatic microvasculature of formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded (FFPE) tumours from a cohort of 30 patients with bladder cancer. Our results revealed more heterogeneous spatial deviations in more advanced bladder tumours. We also showed that three-dimensional imaging could determine tumour stage and identify vascular or lymphatic system invasion with higher accuracy than standard two-dimensional histological diagnostic methods. There was no association between sample storage times and outcomes, demonstrating that the DIPCO pipeline could be successfully applied on old FFPE samples. Conclusions: Studying tumour samples with three-dimensional imaging could help us understand the pathological nature of cancers and provide essential information that might improve the accuracy of cancer staging.
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