A Semi-Automated Technique for Adenoma Quantification in the Apc Min Mouse Using FeatureCounter

Sci Rep. 2020 Feb 20;10(1):3064. doi: 10.1038/s41598-020-60020-7.


Colorectal cancer is a major contributor to death and disease worldwide. The ApcMin mouse is a widely used model of intestinal neoplasia, as it carries a mutation also found in human colorectal cancers. However, the method most commonly used to quantify tumour burden in these mice is manual adenoma counting, which is time consuming and poorly suited to standardization across different laboratories. We describe a method to produce suitable photographs of the small intestine of ApcMin mice, process them with an ImageJ macro, FeatureCounter, which automatically locates image features potentially corresponding to adenomas, and a machine learning pipeline to identify and quantify them. Compared to a manual method, the specificity (or True Negative Rate, TNR) and sensitivity (or True Positive Rate, TPR) of this method in detecting adenomas are similarly high at about 80% and 87%, respectively. Importantly, total adenoma area measures derived from the automatically-called tumours were just as capable of distinguishing high-burden from low-burden mice as those established manually. Overall, our strategy is quicker, helps control experimenter bias, and yields a greater wealth of information about each tumour, thus providing a convenient route to getting consistent and reliable results from a study.