Clinical-grade computational pathology using weakly supervised deep learning on whole slide images

The development of decision support systems for pathology and their deployment in clinical practice have been hindered by the need for large manually annotated datasets.
To overcome this problem, the authors present a multiple instance learning-based deep learning system that uses only the reported diagnoses as labels for training, thereby avoiding expensive and time-consuming pixel-wise manual annotations. We evaluated this framework at scale on a dataset of 44,732 whole slide images from 15,187 patients without any form of data curation. Tests on prostate cancer, basal cell carcinoma and breast cancer metastases to axillary lymph nodes resulted in areas under the curve above 0.98 for all cancer types. Its clinical application would allow pathologists to exclude 65-75% of slides while retaining 100% sensitivity. The results show that this system has the ability to train accurate classification models at unprecedented scale, laying the foundation for the deployment of computational decision support systems in clinical practice.