Introduction: In the framework of the Cognitive Microscope (MICO) project, we have set up a contest about mitosis detection in images of H and E stained slides of breast cancer for the conference ICPR 2012. Mitotic count is an important parameter for the prognosis of breast cancer. However, mitosis detection in digital histopathology is a challenging problem that needs a deeper study. Indeed, mitosis detection is difficult because mitosis are small objects with a large variety of shapes, and they can thus be easily confused with some other objects or artefacts present in the image. We added a further dimension to the contest by using two different slide scanners having different resolutions and producing red-green-blue (RGB) images, and a multi-spectral microscope producing images in 10 different spectral bands and 17 layers Z-stack. 17 teams participated in the study and the best team achieved a recall rate of 0.7 and precision of 0.89.
Context: Several studies on automatic tools to process digitized slides have been reported focusing mainly on nuclei or tubule detection. Mitosis detection is a challenging problem that has not yet been addressed well in the literature.
Aims: Mitotic count is an important parameter in breast cancer grading as it gives an evaluation of the aggressiveness of the tumor. However, consistency, reproducibility and agreement on mitotic count for the same slide can vary largely among pathologists. An automatic tool for this task may help for reaching a better consistency, and at the same time reducing the burden of this demanding task for the pathologists.
Subjects and methods: Professor Frιdιrique Capron team of the pathology department at Pitiι-Salpκtriθre Hospital in Paris, France, has selected a set of five slides of breast cancer. The slides are stained with H and E. They have been scanned by three different equipments: Aperio ScanScope XT slide scanner, Hamamatsu NanoZoomer 2.0-HT slide scanner and 10 bands multispectral microscope. The data set is made up of 50 high power fields (HPF) coming from 5 different slides scanned at ×40 magnification. There are 10 HPFs/slide. The pathologist has annotated all the mitotic cells manually. A HPF has a size of 512 μm × 512 μm (that is an area of 0.262 mm (2) , which is a surface equivalent to that of a microscope field diameter of 0.58 mm. These 50 HPFs contain a total of 326 mitotic cells on images of both scanners, and 322 mitotic cells on the multispectral microscope.
Results: Up to 129 teams have registered to the contest. However, only 17 teams submitted their detection of mitotic cells. The performance of the best team is very promising, with F-measure as high as 0.78. However, the database we provided is by far too small for a good assessment of reliability and robustness of the proposed algorithms.
Conclusions: Mitotic count is an important criterion in the grading of many types of cancers, however, very little research has been made on automatic mitotic cell detection, mainly because of a lack of available data. A main objective of this contest was to propose a database of mitotic cells on digitized breast cancer histopathology slides to initiate works on automated mitotic cell detection. In the future, we would like to extend this database to have much more images from different patients and also for different types of cancers. In addition, mitotic cells should be annotated by several pathologists to reflect the partial agreement among them.
Keywords: Automated mitotic cell detection; H and E stained histological slides; breast cancer.