Deep learning for the standardized classification of Ki-67 in vulva carcinoma: A feasibility study

Heliyon. 2021 Jul 15;7(7):e07577. doi: 10.1016/j.heliyon.2021.e07577. eCollection 2021 Jul.


Background: The aim of this study is to demonstrate the feasibility of automatic classification of Ki-67 histological immunostainings in patients with squamous cell carcinoma of the vulva using a deep convolutional neural network (dCNN).

Material and methods: For evaluation of the dCNN, we used 55 well characterized squamous cell carcinomas of the vulva in a tissue microarray (TMA) format in this retrospective study. The tumor specimens were classified in 3 different categories C1 (0-2%), C2 (2-20%) and C3 (>20%), representing the relation of the number of KI-67 positive tumor cells to all cancer cells on the TMA spot. Representative areas of the spots were manually labeled by extracting images of 351 × 280 pixels. A dCNN with 13 convolutional layers was used for the evaluation. Two independent pathologists classified 45 labeled images in order to compare the dCNN's results to human readouts.

Results: Using a small labeled dataset with 1020 images with equal distribution among classes, the dCNN reached an accuracy of 90.9% (93%) for the training (validation) data. Applying a larger dataset with additional 1017 labeled images resulted in an accuracy of 96.1% (91.4%) for the training (validation) dataset. For the human readout, there were no significant differences between the pathologists and the dCNN in Ki-67 classification results.

Conclusion: The dCNN is capable of a standardized classification of Ki-67 staining in vulva carcinoma; therefore, it may be suitable for quality control and standardization in the assessment of tumor grading.

Keywords: Convolutional neural network; Deep learning; Ki-67; Vulva carcinoma.