A texture based pattern recognition approach to distinguish melanoma from non-melanoma cells in histopathological tissue microarray sections

PLoS One. 2013 May 17;8(5):e62070. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0062070. Print 2013.


Aims: Immunohistochemistry is a routine practice in clinical cancer diagnostics and also an established technology for tissue-based research regarding biomarker discovery efforts. Tedious manual assessment of immunohistochemically stained tissue needs to be fully automated to take full advantage of the potential for high throughput analyses enabled by tissue microarrays and digital pathology. Such automated tools also need to be reproducible for different experimental conditions and biomarker targets. In this study we present a novel supervised melanoma specific pattern recognition approach that is fully automated and quantitative.

Methods and results: Melanoma samples were immunostained for the melanocyte specific target, Melan-A. Images representing immunostained melanoma tissue were then digitally processed to segment regions of interest, highlighting Melan-A positive and negative areas. Color deconvolution was applied to each region of interest to separate the channel containing the immunohistochemistry signal from the hematoxylin counterstaining channel. A support vector machine melanoma classification model was learned from a discovery melanoma patient cohort (n = 264) and subsequently validated on an independent cohort of melanoma patient tissue sample images (n = 157).

Conclusion: Here we propose a novel method that takes advantage of utilizing an immuhistochemical marker highlighting melanocytes to fully automate the learning of a general melanoma cell classification model. The presented method can be applied on any protein of interest and thus provides a tool for quantification of immunohistochemistry-based protein expression in melanoma.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Immunohistochemistry / methods*
  • MART-1 Antigen
  • Melanocytes / chemistry*
  • Melanoma / diagnosis*
  • Pattern Recognition, Automated / methods*
  • Surface Properties
  • Tissue Array Analysis / methods*


  • MART-1 Antigen

Grant support

Grant support was provided by the European Union 7th Framework Programme under the auspices of the Marie Curie Industry-Academia Partnership and Pathways program, Target-Melanoma (www.targetmelanoma.com), and the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation (Human Protein Atlas project). The UCD Conway Institute is funded by the Programme for Third Level Institutions, as administered by the Higher Education Authority of Ireland. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.