Automatic cancer detection on digital histopathology images of mid-gland radical prostatectomy specimens

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Journal of Medical Imaging





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Purpose: Automatic cancer detection on radical prostatectomy (RP) sections facilitates graphical and quantitative surgical pathology reporting, which can potentially benefit postsurgery follow-up care and treatment planning. It can also support imaging validation studies using a histologic reference standard and pathology research studies. This problem is challenging due to the large sizes of digital histopathology whole-mount whole-slide images (WSIs) of RP sections and staining variability across different WSIs. Approach: We proposed a calibration-free adaptive thresholding algorithm, which compensates for staining variability and yields consistent tissue component maps (TCMs) of the nuclei, lumina, and other tissues. We used and compared three machine learning methods for classifying each cancer versus noncancer region of interest (ROI) throughout each WSI: (1) conventional machine learning methods and 14 texture features extracted from TCMs, (2) transfer learning with pretrained AlexNet fine-tuned by TCM ROIs, and (3) transfer learning with pretrained AlexNet fine-tuned with raw image ROIs. Results: The three methods yielded areas under the receiver operating characteristic curve of 0.96, 0.98, and 0.98, respectively, in leave-one-patient-out cross validation using 1.3 million ROIs from 286 mid-gland whole-mount WSIs from 68 patients. Conclusion: Transfer learning with the use of TCMs demonstrated state-of-the-art overall performance and is more stable with respect to sample size across different tissue types. For the tissue types involving Gleason 5 (most aggressive) cancer, it achieved the best performance compared to the other tested methods. This tool can be translated to clinical workflow to assist graphical and quantitative pathology reporting for surgical specimens upon further multicenter validation.

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