Effects of annotation granularity in deep learning models for histopathological images

Pathological is crucial to cancer diagnosis. Usually, Pathologists draw their conclusion based on observed cell and tissue structure on histology slides. Rapid development in machine learning, especially deep learning have established robust and accurate classifiers. They are being used to analyze histopathological slides and assist pathologists in diagnosis. Most machine learning systems rely heavily on annotated data sets to gain experiences and knowledge to correctly and accurately perform various tasks such as classification and segmentation. This work investigates different granularity of annotations in histopathological data set including image-wise, bounding box, ellipse-wise, and pixel-wise to verify the influence of annotation in pathological slide on deep learning models. We design corresponding experiments to test classification and segmentation performance of deep learning models based on annotations with different annotation granularity. In classification, state-of-the-art deep learning-based classifiers perform better when trained by pixel-wise annotation dataset. On average, precision, recall and F1-score improves by 7.87%, 8.83% and 7.85% respectively. Thus, it is suggested that finer granularity annotations are better utilized by deep learning algorithms in classification tasks. Similarly, semantic segmentation algorithms can achieve 8.33% better segmentation accuracy when trained by pixel-wise annotations. Our study shows not only that finer-grained annotation can improve the performance of deep learning models, but also help extracts more accurate phenotypic information from histopathological slides. Intelligence systems trained on granular annotations may help pathologists inspecting certain regions for better diagnosis. The compartmentalized prediction approach similar to this work may contribute to phenotype and genotype association studies.

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