Survival prediction in triple negative breast cancer using multiple instance learning of histopathological images

Sci Rep. 2022 Aug 25;12(1):14527. doi: 10.1038/s41598-022-18647-1.


Computational pathology is a rapidly expanding area for research due to the current global transformation of histopathology through the adoption of digital workflows. Survival prediction of breast cancer patients is an important task that currently depends on histopathology assessment of cancer morphological features, immunohistochemical biomarker expression and patient clinical findings. To facilitate the manual process of survival risk prediction, we developed a computational pathology framework for survival prediction using digitally scanned haematoxylin and eosin-stained tissue microarray images of clinically aggressive triple negative breast cancer. Our results show that the model can produce an average concordance index of 0.616. Our model predictions are analysed for independent prognostic significance in univariate analysis (hazard ratio = 3.12, 95% confidence interval [1.69,5.75], p < 0.005) and multivariate analysis using clinicopathological data (hazard ratio = 2.68, 95% confidence interval [1.44,4.99], p < 0.005). Through qualitative analysis of heatmaps generated from our model, an expert pathologist is able to associate tissue features highlighted in the attention heatmaps of high-risk predictions with morphological features associated with more aggressive behaviour such as low levels of tumour infiltrating lymphocytes, stroma rich tissues and high-grade invasive carcinoma, providing explainability of our method for triple negative breast cancer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Breast Neoplasms* / pathology
  • Carcinoma* / pathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lymphocytes, Tumor-Infiltrating / pathology
  • Prognosis
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Triple Negative Breast Neoplasms* / pathology