Gleason grading of prostate cancer is an important prognostic factor but suffers from poor reproducibility, particularly among non-subspecialist pathologists. Although artificial intelligence (A.I.) tools have demonstrated Gleason grading on-par with expert pathologists, it remains an open question whether A.I. grading translates to better prognostication. In this study, we developed a system to predict prostate-cancer specific mortality via A.I.-based Gleason grading and subsequently evaluated its ability to risk-stratify patients on an independent retrospective cohort of 2,807 prostatectomy cases from a single European center with 5-25 years of follow-up (median: 13, interquartile range 9-17). The A.I.'s risk scores produced a C-index of 0.84 (95%CI 0.80-0.87) for prostate cancer-specific mortality. Upon discretizing these risk scores into risk groups analogous to pathologist Grade Groups (GG), the A.I. had a C-index of 0.82 (95%CI 0.78-0.85). On the subset of cases with a GG in the original pathology report (n=1,517), the A.I.'s C-indices were 0.87 and 0.85 for continuous and discrete grading, respectively, compared to 0.79 (95%CI 0.71-0.86) for GG obtained from the reports. These represent improvements of 0.08 (95%CI 0.01-0.15) and 0.07 (95%CI 0.00-0.14) respectively. Our results suggest that A.I.-based Gleason grading can lead to effective risk-stratification and warrants further evaluation for improving disease management.
Deriving interpretable prognostic features from deep-learning-based prognostic histopathology models remains a challenge. In this study, we developed a deep learning system (DLS) for predicting disease specific survival for stage II and III colorectal cancer using 3,652 cases (27,300 slides). When evaluated on two validation datasets containing 1,239 cases (9,340 slides) and 738 cases (7,140 slides) respectively, the DLS achieved a 5-year disease-specific survival AUC of 0.70 (95%CI 0.66-0.73) and 0.69 (95%CI 0.64-0.72), and added significant predictive value to a set of 9 clinicopathologic features. To interpret the DLS, we explored the ability of different human-interpretable features to explain the variance in DLS scores. We observed that clinicopathologic features such as T-category, N-category, and grade explained a small fraction of the variance in DLS scores (R2=18% in both validation sets). Next, we generated human-interpretable histologic features by clustering embeddings from a deep-learning based image-similarity model and showed that they explain the majority of the variance (R2 of 73% to 80%). Furthermore, the clustering-derived feature most strongly associated with high DLS scores was also highly prognostic in isolation. With a distinct visual appearance (poorly differentiated tumor cell clusters adjacent to adipose tissue), this feature was identified by annotators with 87.0-95.5% accuracy. Our approach can be used to explain predictions from a prognostic deep learning model and uncover potentially-novel prognostic features that can be reliably identified by people for future validation studies.
Digital pathology is not only one of the most promising fields of diagnostic medicine, but at the same time a hot topic for fundamental research. Digital pathology is not just the transfer of histopathological slides into digital representations. The combination of different data sources (images, patient records, and *omics data) together with current advances in artificial intelligence/machine learning enable to make novel information accessible and quantifiable to a human expert, which is not yet available and not exploited in current medical settings. The grand goal is to reach a level of usable intelligence to understand the data in the context of an application task, thereby making machine decisions transparent, interpretable and explainable. The foundation of such an "augmented pathologist" needs an integrated approach: While machine learning algorithms require many thousands of training examples, a human expert is often confronted with only a few data points. Interestingly, humans can learn from such few examples and are able to instantly interpret complex patterns. Consequently, the grand goal is to combine the possibilities of artificial intelligence with human intelligence and to find a well-suited balance between them to enable what neither of them could do on their own. This can raise the quality of education, diagnosis, prognosis and prediction of cancer and other diseases. In this paper we describe some (incomplete) research issues which we believe should be addressed in an integrated and concerted effort for paving the way towards the augmented pathologist.