ZFTool: A Software for Automatic Quantification of Cancer Cell Mass Evolution in Zebrafish

Background: Zebrafish (Danio rerio) is a model organism for the study of human cancer. Compared with the murine model, the zebrafish model has several properties ideal for personalized therapies. The transparency of the zebrafish embryos and the development of the pigment-deficient ”casper“ zebrafish line give the capacity to directly observe cancer formation and progression in the living animal. Automatic quantification of cellular proliferation in vivo is critical to the development of personalized medicine. Methods: A new methodology was defined to automatically quantify the cancer cellular evolution. ZFTool was developed to establish a base threshold that eliminates the embryo autofluorescence, automatically measures the area and intensity of GFP (green-fluorescent protein) marked cells, and defines a proliferation index. Results: The proliferation index automatically computed on different targets demonstrates the efficiency of ZFTool to provide a good automatic quantification of cancer cell evolution and dissemination. Conclusion: Our results demonstrate that ZFTool is a reliable tool for the automatic quantification of the proliferation index as a measure of cancer mass evolution in zebrafish, eliminating the influence of its autofluorescence.

keywords: xenotransplant, cancer cells, zebrafish image analysis, in vivo assay