Background: An increasing volume of prostate biopsies and a world-wide shortage of uro-pathologists puts a strain on pathology departments. Additionally, the high intra- and inter-observer variability in grading can result in over- and undertreatment of prostate cancer. Artificial intelligence (AI) methods may alleviate these problems by assisting pathologists to reduce workload and harmonize grading. Methods: We digitized 6,682 needle biopsies from 976 participants in the population based STHLM3 diagnostic study to train deep neural networks for assessing prostate biopsies. The networks were evaluated by predicting the presence, extent, and Gleason grade of malignant tissue for an independent test set comprising 1,631 biopsies from 245 men. We additionally evaluated grading performance on 87 biopsies individually graded by 23 experienced urological pathologists from the International Society of Urological Pathology. We assessed discriminatory performance by receiver operating characteristics (ROC) and tumor extent predictions by correlating predicted millimeter cancer length against measurements by the reporting pathologist. We quantified the concordance between grades assigned by the AI and the expert urological pathologists using Cohen's kappa. Results: The performance of the AI to detect and grade cancer in prostate needle biopsy samples was comparable to that of international experts in prostate pathology. The AI achieved an area under the ROC curve of 0.997 for distinguishing between benign and malignant biopsy cores, and 0.999 for distinguishing between men with or without prostate cancer. The correlation between millimeter cancer predicted by the AI and assigned by the reporting pathologist was 0.96. For assigning Gleason grades, the AI achieved an average pairwise kappa of 0.62. This was within the range of the corresponding values for the expert pathologists (0.60 to 0.73).
For prostate cancer patients, the Gleason score is one of the most important prognostic factors, potentially determining treatment independent of the stage. However, Gleason scoring is based on subjective microscopic examination of tumor morphology and suffers from poor reproducibility. Here we present a deep learning system (DLS) for Gleason scoring whole-slide images of prostatectomies. Our system was developed using 112 million pathologist-annotated image patches from 1,226 slides, and evaluated on an independent validation dataset of 331 slides, where the reference standard was established by genitourinary specialist pathologists. On the validation dataset, the mean accuracy among 29 general pathologists was 0.61. The DLS achieved a significantly higher diagnostic accuracy of 0.70 (p=0.002) and trended towards better patient risk stratification in correlations to clinical follow-up data. Our approach could improve the accuracy of Gleason scoring and subsequent therapy decisions, particularly where specialist expertise is unavailable. The DLS also goes beyond the current Gleason system to more finely characterize and quantitate tumor morphology, providing opportunities for refinement of the Gleason system itself.