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Antibody-supervised deep learning for quantification of tumor-infiltrating immune cells in hematoxylin and eosin stained breast cancer samples
Riku Turkki, Nina Linder, Panu E Kovanen, Teijo Pellinen, Johan Lundin
J Pathol Inform
2016, 7:38 (1 September 2016)
Immune cell infiltration in tumor is an emerging prognostic biomarker in breast cancer. The gold standard for quantification of immune cells in tissue sections is visual assessment through a microscope, which is subjective and semi-quantitative. In this study, we propose and evaluate an approach based on antibody-guided annotation and deep learning to quantify immune cell-rich areas in hematoxylin and eosin (H&E) stained samples.
Consecutive sections of formalin-fixed parafin-embedded samples obtained from the primary tumor of twenty breast cancer patients were cut and stained with H&E and the pan-leukocyte CD45 antibody. The stained slides were digitally scanned, and a training set of immune cell-rich and cell-poor tissue regions was annotated in H&E whole-slide images using the CD45-expression as a guide. In analysis, the images were divided into small homogenous regions, superpixels, from which features were extracted using a pretrained convolutional neural network (CNN) and classified with a support of vector machine. The CNN approach was compared to texture-based classification and to visual assessments performed by two pathologists.
In a set of 123,442 labeled superpixels, the CNN approach achieved an F-score of 0.94 (range: 0.92-0.94) in discrimination of immune cell-rich and cell-poor regions, as compared to an F-score of 0.88 (range: 0.87-0.89) obtained with the texture-based classification. When compared to visual assessment of 200 images, an agreement of 90% (k = 0.79) to quantify immune infiltration with the CNN approach was achieved while the inter-observer agreement between pathologists was 90% (k = 0.78).
Our findings indicate that deep learning can be applied to quantify immune cell infiltration in breast cancer samples using a basic morphology staining only. A good discrimination of immune cell-rich areas was achieved, well in concordance with both leukocyte antigen expression and pathologists' visual assessment.
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