The Cellular Core is located in the STTARR Innovation Centre. It was designed to facilitate multidisciplinary collaborations and includes state-of-the-art microscopes for high-resolution longitudinal imaging of molecular processes within cells. It also includes equipment for gene and protein expression studies and tissue banking.

The proximity of Cellular Core to the other imaging modalities allows STTARR to more quickly assess the effectiveness of pre-clinical and clinical molecular agents. This helps researchers identify quickly what Phase I agents can be used with radiotherapy.

Specialized facilities contained within this core include:

  • Access to serum and tissue proteomic testing
  • Access to SNP genotyping
  • Access to Comparative Genomic Hybridization
  • Development of pre-clinical and clinical tissue microarrays for correlative science studies
  • Immunohistochemical staining for radiation response pathways
  • Microenvironmental facilities to measure radiation responses in oxic and hypoxic cells
  • Specialized microscopy and image analysis facilities for live cell imaging studies and tracking of intranuclear DNA repair foci
  • COMET DNA repair assays
  • Quantitative PCR for DNA repair genes

The Celllular Core is a fee for service wet lab that has infrastructure to support both basic and clinical studies relating to genetic instability and cancer risk.

Equipment available in STTARR Cellular Core  Wet Lab and Microscopy/Dark Room
Users must receive laboratory orientation and instruction before being allowed to use any equipment.

  • Containment Level 2 Tissue Culture facility
  • Isotope laboratory for 32P ansd 35S for metabolic and in vitro labelling
  • Spinning disk confocal microscope for tracking nuclear DNA repair complexes
  • Dark room facility
  • qRT-PCR
  • Quantitative fluorescent COMET assay for measuring DNA damage
  • Leica Tissue Arrayer for tissue microarrays
  • Prostate and bladder cancer xenografts and normal tissue endpoints for pre-clinical testing of novel agents
  • Microenvironmental chambers to assess the effects of hypoxia on cellular models
  • Electrophoresis equipment for DNA and protein analysis
  • Multifuntional Microplate Reader (Fluostar Omega)

STTARR’s Preclinical Core  is home to an array of advanced imaging instruments that help researchers evaluate new therapeutic and response monitoring strategies aimed at cancer control in preclinical animal models. These tools allow researchers to identify and validate novel disease biomarkers of response to biological treatments and therapies.

The infrastructure resources parallel those available for clinical studies at the University Health Network. This maximizes the potential for STTARR to quickly assess, refine and implement new treatment strategies in a clinical setting.

These facilities are integrated in a highly unique environment that enables the implementation of longitudinal preclinical studies of biological processes and therapeutic effect. In addition to the imaging resource, there are two state-of-the-art operating rooms to support development of novel surgical procedures.

The Clinical Core facilities are located largely at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre within the Radiation Medicine Program. This facility capitalizes on existing state-of-the-art clinical imaging and precision radiation treatment equipment already available at the UHN to transfer novel therapies and monitoring schemes to the clinic. Data and trial development is processed at the STTARR Innovation Centre.

The dedicated Clinical Core translational infrastructure located at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre includes:

  • Multi-slice CT simulator
  • PET-CT
  • 1.5T MR simulator
  • High resolution 3D ultrasound imaging
  • Optical and bioluminescence imaging
  • Precision image-guided flat-panel cone-beam CT treatment units
  • Stereotactic radiation treatment units
  • Pulsed-dose-rate and high-dose-rate brachytherapy facilities
  • Comprehensive, integrated radiation treatment planning and image analysis platforms for external beam radiotherapy and brachytherapy

These facilities provide a comprehensive and adaptable resource for serial molecular and anatomic imaging of tumours and normal tissues prior to, during and following radiotherapy or novel biologically-targeted treatments.

Services at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre include:

  • Regulatory affairs support services to open clinical trials and translational studies
  • Preparation of ethics submission package, including protocol writing, study and correlative consents, research financial and budget estimation
  • Health Canada Submission package for Clinical Trial Application (CTA – PSERT, QIU, CTSI)
  • Trained clinical personnel to conduct clinical studies, including data collection and reporting
  • Phlebotomy services for translational studies including sample procurement, processing, and storage
  • Quality measures to ensure accuracy, reproducibility and reliability of data

If you are preparing a grant and would like to learn more about our capabilities in relation to your work, please contact us.

STTARR’s Computational Core includes specific software and computing tools and provides online storage for ongoing projects to both internal and external clients. This registration and storage system completes the loop of image-guided therapy; relating the planning of treatment and research outcomes with specific therapy options.

Within the Computational Core, tumour and normal tissue delineation comparisons can be quantified within a single sample, across observers or compared to auto-segmentation algorithms for single or multi-modality imaging. Imaging processing capabilities include respiratory sorting of temporal images using kinetic modeling, response assessment and quantitative evaluation.

The Computational Core is a fee for service Core that provides data storage and analysis for all STTARR users.


Data Storage
Users may decide either to purchase long term data storage at STTARR or to remove their data to their own disk and have STTARR’s copy deleted after one month (no charge).

Users’ drives need to be encrypted in order to copy data from the University Health Network.
We can encrypt drives for users if needed and users also have the option to purchase pre-encrypted drives from STTARR.

Data Analysis
We offer consultation and data analysis services. Functional Image analysis can be performed on a suite of different Image Analysis Software that includes:

  • Definiens Tissue Studio and Developer
  • Inveon Research Workplace (IRW)
  • ImageJ
  • Amide
  • Microview
  • Amira
  • Matlab

Analysis may include finding ROI statistics on registered multi-modality cases and contouring on the CT/MRI.  Some ROI statistics that we can measure include mean, median, std, max min, volume, # voxels.  We can also help find % injected dose per gram on PET and 3D ROI visualization and gather confirmation of tissue embedding orientation used to generate corrected SPECT-CT data.

Registration of multimodality imaging and histology. Techniques have been developed using finite-element analysis methods that account for anatomical deformation over time.

Immnuohistochemical and immunofluorescent imaging and analysis can be labourious at times. The accumulation of multi-level/multiplexed channel images and complex tissue morphology can slow down imaging and analysis. We can help complete projects in a timely manner.  Histological image analysis can be performed on our various image analysis software including, Definiens TissueStudio, ImagePro Plus, MCID, Image J and HAPI.  Large amounts of tissues and various results and outputs can be achieved; cell counts, marker distances, intensity and compartment localization.


Histology (wet fixed tissue)

  • Handling of tissues, cultured cells, cell suspension and smears/cytospin preparation
  • Fixation for tissue/cell preparation
  •  Decalcification of calcified tissue (bone)
  • Tissue processing for paraffin blocks
  • Sectioning of paraffin blocks to create slides for routine, special staining or immunohistochemistry
  • DNA/RNA free preparations for sectioning or extraction
  • Sectioning Tissue microarray blocks
  •  Preparation and sectioning of paraffin embedded whole mount tissues (to mount onto glass slides up to 7”x5”)

Histology (Frozen tissue)

  • Assistance with snap freezing fresh tissue biopsies performed at STTARR
  • Marking tissue orientation and embedding in OCT
  • Cryostat sectioning from 5µm to 100µm
  • Sectioning of fixed, frozen tissues for free floating immunohistochemistry (50µm thick sections)

Note: The Pathology Core is licensed to handle and store C-11, F-18, Cu-64, T-99m, I-123 radioactive samples we are therefore able to section radioactive tissue for autoradiography as well as cut tissue rolls for DNA or RNA analysis


  • Antibody optimization
  • Single or multiple labeling using chromogenic and fluorescence techniques
  • In-Situ end labeling for apoptosis

High resolution whole slide scanning

We have the ability to acquire high resolution (up to 0.25µm laser spot size) images of the entire tissue section (including whole mount sections mounted on up to 7”x5” slides).  Images can be captured in brightfield and most routinely used fluorophores can be detected and imaged.

Image Analysis

  • Tissue Studio (Definiens)
  • HAPI (IDL based)
  • Image Pro Plus
  • MCID
  • Image J
  • ImageScope

Usage Arrangements (User fee based)
Study costs are discussed in advance of services being performed.  All services are customizable and may include:  Consultation, method development and optimization, specimen preparation for gross anatomy, testing and interpretation. Fees also apply to use of Facility and instruments.

New clients are required to register and create an accountPrior to bringing in samples users must complete an online Histological Services Request form.