Multi-level Multiple Instance Learning with Transformer for Whole Slide Image Classification

8 Jun 2023  ·  Ruijie Zhang, Qiaozhe Zhang, Yingzhuang Liu, Hao Xin, Yan Liu, Xinggang Wang ·

Whole slide image (WSI) refers to a type of high-resolution scanned tissue image, which is extensively employed in computer-assisted diagnosis (CAD). The extremely high resolution and limited availability of region-level annotations make employing deep learning methods for WSI-based digital diagnosis challenging. Recently integrating multiple instance learning (MIL) and Transformer for WSI analysis shows very promising results. However, designing effective Transformers for this weakly-supervised high-resolution image analysis is an underexplored yet important problem. In this paper, we propose a Multi-level MIL (MMIL) scheme by introducing a hierarchical structure to MIL, which enables efficient handling of MIL tasks involving a large number of instances. Based on MMIL, we instantiated MMIL-Transformer, an efficient Transformer model with windowed exact self-attention for large-scale MIL tasks. To validate its effectiveness, we conducted a set of experiments on WSI classification tasks, where MMIL-Transformer demonstrate superior performance compared to existing state-of-the-art methods, i.e., 96.80% test AUC and 97.67% test accuracy on the CAMELYON16 dataset, 99.04% test AUC and 94.37% test accuracy on the TCGA-NSCLC dataset, respectively. All code and pre-trained models are available at:

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