Artificial intelligence as the next step towards precision pathology

J Intern Med. 2020 Jul;288(1):62-81. doi: 10.1111/joim.13030. Epub 2020 Mar 3.


Pathology is the cornerstone of cancer care. The need for accuracy in histopathologic diagnosis of cancer is increasing as personalized cancer therapy requires accurate biomarker assessment. The appearance of digital image analysis holds promise to improve both the volume and precision of histomorphological evaluation. Recently, machine learning, and particularly deep learning, has enabled rapid advances in computational pathology. The integration of machine learning into routine care will be a milestone for the healthcare sector in the next decade, and histopathology is right at the centre of this revolution. Examples of potential high-value machine learning applications include both model-based assessment of routine diagnostic features in pathology, and the ability to extract and identify novel features that provide insights into a disease. Recent groundbreaking results have demonstrated that applications of machine learning methods in pathology significantly improves metastases detection in lymph nodes, Ki67 scoring in breast cancer, Gleason grading in prostate cancer and tumour-infiltrating lymphocyte (TIL) scoring in melanoma. Furthermore, deep learning models have also been demonstrated to be able to predict status of some molecular markers in lung, prostate, gastric and colorectal cancer based on standard HE slides. Moreover, prognostic (survival outcomes) deep neural network models based on digitized HE slides have been demonstrated in several diseases, including lung cancer, melanoma and glioma. In this review, we aim to present and summarize the latest developments in digital image analysis and in the application of artificial intelligence in diagnostic pathology.

Keywords: artificial intelligence; deep learning; digital image analysis; digital pathology; machine learning; pathology.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Artificial Intelligence*
  • Genetic Variation
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Neoplasms / genetics
  • Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Pathology, Clinical / methods*
  • Prognosis
  • Survival Analysis