Detection of lobular structures in normal breast tissue

Comput Biol Med. 2016 Jul 1;74:91-102. doi: 10.1016/j.compbiomed.2016.05.004. Epub 2016 May 11.


Background: Ongoing research into inflammatory conditions raises an increasing need to evaluate immune cells in histological sections in biologically relevant regions of interest (ROIs). Herein, we compare different approaches to automatically detect lobular structures in human normal breast tissue in digitized whole slide images (WSIs). This automation is required to perform objective and consistent quantitative studies on large data sets.

Methods: In normal breast tissue from nine healthy patients immunohistochemically stained for different markers, we evaluated and compared three different image analysis methods to automatically detect lobular structures in WSIs: (1) a bottom-up approach using the cell-based data for subsequent tissue level classification, (2) a top-down method starting with texture classification at tissue level analysis of cell densities in specific ROIs, and (3) a direct texture classification using deep learning technology.

Results: All three methods result in comparable overall quality allowing automated detection of lobular structures with minor advantage in sensitivity (approach 3), specificity (approach 2), or processing time (approach 1). Combining the outputs of the approaches further improved the precision.

Conclusions: Different approaches of automated ROI detection are feasible and should be selected according to the individual needs of biomarker research. Additionally, detected ROIs could be used as a basis for quantification of immune infiltration in lobular structures.

Keywords: Convolutional neural network; Digital histopathology; Image analysis; Normal breast lobule; Whole slide image.

MeSH terms

  • Breast / cytology*
  • Breast / metabolism
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted / methods*
  • Immunohistochemistry / methods