Application of digital holographic tomography in antitumor effect of cantharides complex on 4T1 breast cancer cells

Appl Opt. 2021 Apr 20;60(12):3365-3373. doi: 10.1364/AO.416943.


The study focuses on a methodology providing noninvasive monitoring and evaluation of the antitumor effect of traditional Chinese medicine, cantharides complex (canth), on 4T1 breast tumor cells. Digital holographic tomography (DHT) and developed data post-processing algorithms were used for quantitative estimation of changes in optical and morphological parameters of cells. We calculated and compared data on the refractive index, thickness, and projected area of 4T1 breast tumor cells in control untreated specimens and those treated with doxorubicin hydrochloride (DOX), canth, and their combinations. Post-treatment changes in cellular morphology recorded by DHT demonstrated that the two drugs led to noticeably different morphological changes in cells that can be presumably associated with different pathways of their death, apoptosis, or necrosis. The effect of combined treatment with these two drugs strongly depended on their relative concentrations and could lead to changes characteristic either for DOX or for canth; however, being more profound than those obtained when using each drug solely. The results obtained by DHT are in a good correspondence with commonly used cell viability analysis and immunofluorescent analysis of changes in cellular cytoskeleton.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols / pharmacology
  • Breast Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging
  • Breast Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Cantharidin / pharmacology*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Doxorubicin / pharmacology
  • Female
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique
  • Holography / methods*
  • Medicine, Chinese Traditional
  • Mice
  • Refractometry / methods
  • Tomography / methods*


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Doxorubicin
  • Cantharidin