Evaluation of mitotic activity index in breast cancer using whole slide digital images

PLoS One. 2013 Dec 30;8(12):e82576. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0082576. eCollection 2013.


Introduction: Mitotic Activity Index (MAI) is an important independent prognostic factor and an integral part of the breast cancer grading system. Thus, correct estimation of this prognostically relevant feature is essential for guiding treatment decision and assessing patient prognosis. The aim of this study was to validate the use of high resolution Whole Slide Images (WSI) in estimating MAI in breast cancer specimens.

Methods: MAI was evaluated in 100 consecutive breast cancer specimens by three observers on two occasions, microscopically and on WSI with a wash out period of 4 months. MAI was also translated to mitotic scores as in grading. Inter- and intra-observer agreement between microscopic and digital MAI counts and scores was measured.

Results: Almost perfect inter-observer agreements were obtained from counting MAI using a conventional microscope (intra-class correlation coefficient (ICCC) 0.879) as well as on WSI (ICCC 0.924). K coefficients reflected good inter-observer agreements among observers' microscopic mitotic scores (average kappa 0.642). Comparable results were also observed among digital mitotic scores (average kappa 0.635). There was strong to perfect intra-observer agreements between MAI counts and mitotic scores for the two diagnostic modalities (ICCC 0.716-0.863, kappa 0.506-0.617). There were no significant differences in mitotic scores using both diagnostic modalities.

Conclusion: Scoring mitoses using WSI in breast cancer seems to be just as reliable and reproducible as when using a microscope. Further development of software and image quality will definitely encourage the use of WSI in routine pathology practice.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mitosis*
  • Neoplasm Grading
  • Pathology / methods

Grants and funding

These authors have no support or funding to report.