Immunohistochemical Stain-Aided Annotation Accelerates Machine Learning and Deep Learning Model Development in the Pathologic Diagnosis of Nasopharyngeal Carcinoma

Diagnostics (Basel). 2023 Dec 18;13(24):3685. doi: 10.3390/diagnostics13243685.


Nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) is an epithelial cancer originating in the nasopharynx epithelium. Nevertheless, annotating pathology slides remains a bottleneck in the development of AI-driven pathology models and applications. In the present study, we aim to demonstrate the feasibility of using immunohistochemistry (IHC) for annotation by non-pathologists and to develop an efficient model for distinguishing NPC without the time-consuming involvement of pathologists. For this study, we gathered NPC slides from 251 different patients, comprising hematoxylin and eosin (H&E) slides, pan-cytokeratin (Pan-CK) IHC slides, and Epstein-Barr virus-encoded small RNA (EBER) slides. The annotation of NPC regions in the H&E slides was carried out by a non-pathologist trainee who had access to corresponding Pan-CK IHC slides, both with and without EBER slides. The training process utilized ResNeXt, a deep neural network featuring a residual and inception architecture. In the validation set, NPC exhibited an AUC of 0.896, with a sensitivity of 0.919 and a specificity of 0.878. This study represents a significant breakthrough: the successful application of deep convolutional neural networks to identify NPC without the need for expert pathologist annotations. Our results underscore the potential of laboratory techniques to substantially reduce the workload of pathologists.

Keywords: diagnose; immunohistochemistry; machine learning; nasopharyngeal carcinoma.

Grants and funding

This research received no external funding.