CD30 cell graphs of Hodgkin lymphoma are not scale-free--an image analysis approach

Bioinformatics. 2016 Jan 1;32(1):122-9. doi: 10.1093/bioinformatics/btv542. Epub 2015 Sep 11.


Motivation: Hodgkin lymphoma (HL) is a type of B-cell lymphoma. To diagnose the subtypes, biopsies are taken and immunostained. The slides are scanned to produce high-resolution digital whole slide images (WSI). Pathologists manually inspect the spatial distribution of cells, but little is known on the statistical properties of cell distributions in WSIs. Such properties would give valuable information for the construction of theoretical models that describe the invasion of malignant cells in the lymph node and the intercellular interactions.

Results: In this work, we define and discuss HL cell graphs. We identify CD30(+) cells in HL WSIs, bringing together the fields of digital imaging and network analysis. We define special graphs based on the positions of the immunostained cells. We present an automatic analysis of complete WSIs to determine significant morphological and immunohistochemical features of HL cells and their spatial distribution in the lymph node tissue under three different medical conditions: lymphadenitis (LA) and two types of HL. We analyze the vertex degree distributions of CD30 cell graphs and compare them to a null model. CD30 cell graphs show higher vertex degrees than expected by a random unit disk graph, suggesting clustering of the cells. We found that a gamma distribution is suitable to model the vertex degree distributions of CD30 cell graphs, meaning that they are not scale-free. Moreover, we compare the graphs for LA and two subtypes of HL. LA and classical HL showed different vertex degree distributions. The vertex degree distributions of the two HL subtypes NScHL and mixed cellularity HL (MXcHL) were similar.

Availability and implementation: The CellProfiler pipeline used for cell detection is available at


Supplementary information: Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cell Aggregation
  • Cell Count
  • Hodgkin Disease / metabolism*
  • Hodgkin Disease / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted / methods*
  • Ki-1 Antigen / metabolism*
  • Reproducibility of Results


  • Ki-1 Antigen