Computerized image-based detection and grading of lymphocytic infiltration in HER2+ breast cancer histopathology

Ajay Nagesh Basavanhally, Shridar Ganesan, Shannon Agner, James Peter Monaco, Michael D. Feldman, John E. Tomaszewski, Gyan Bhanot, Anant Madabhushi

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196 Scopus citations


The identification of phenotypic changes in breast cancer (BC) histopathology on account of corresponding molecular changes is of significant clinical importance in predicting disease outcome. One such example is the presence of lymphocytic infiltration (LI) in histopathology, which has been correlated with nodal metastasis and distant recurrence in HER2+ BC patients. In this paper, we present a computer-aided diagnosis (CADx) scheme to automatically detect and grade the extent of LI in digitized HER2+ BC histopathology. Lymphocytes are first automatically detected by a combination of region growing and Markov random field algorithms. Using the centers of individual detected lymphocytes as vertices, three graphs (Voronoi diagram, Delaunay triangulation, and minimum spanning tree) are constructed and a total of 50 image-derived features describing the arrangement of the lymphocytes are extracted from each sample. A nonlinear dimensionality reduction scheme, graph embedding (GE), is then used to project the high-dimensional feature vector into a reduced 3-D embedding space. A support vector machine classifier is used to discriminate samples with high and low LI in the reduced dimensional embedding space. A total of 41 HER2+ hematoxylin-and-eosin-stained images obtained from 12 patients were considered in this study. For more than 100 three-fold cross-validation trials, the architectural feature set successfully distinguished samples of high and low LI levels with a classification accuracy greater than 90%. The popular unsupervised Varma-Zisserman texton-based classification scheme was used for comparison and yielded a classification accuracy of only 60%. Additionally, the projection of the 50 image-derived features for all 41 tissue samples into a reduced dimensional space via GE allowed for the visualization of a smooth manifold that revealed a continuum between low, intermediate, and high levels of LI. Since it is known that extent of LI in BC biopsy specimens is a prognostic indicator, our CADx scheme will potentially help clinicians determine disease outcome and allow them to make better therapy recommendations for patients with HER2+ BC.

Original languageEnglish
Article number5306163
Pages (from-to)642-653
Number of pages12
JournalIEEE Transactions on Biomedical Engineering
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2010


  • Breast cancer (BC)
  • Classification
  • Digital pathology
  • Feature extraction
  • Image analysis
  • Lymphocytic infiltration (LI)
  • Nonlinear dimensionality reduction
  • Prognosis
  • Segmentation
  • Texture


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