Detection of acini in histopathology slides: towards automated prediction of breast cancer risk

Suzanne Wetstein, Allison Onken, Gabrielle Baker, Michael Pyle, Josien Pluim, Rulla Tamimi, Yujing Heng, Mitko Veta

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionAcademicpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
6 Downloads (Pure)


Terminal duct lobular units (TDLUs) are structures in the breast which involute with the completion of childbearing and physiological ageing. Women with less TDLU involution are more likely to develop breast cancer than those with more involution. Thus, TDLU involution may be utilized as a biomarker to predict invasive cancer risk. Manual assessment of TDLU involution is a cumbersome and subjective process. This makes it amenable for automated assessment by image analysis. In this study, we developed and evaluated an acini detection method as a first step towards automated assessment of TDLU involution using a dataset of histopathological whole-slide images (WSIs) from the Nurses’ Health Study (NHS) and NHSII. The NHS/NHSII is among the world's largest investigations of epidemiological risk factors for major chronic diseases in women. We compared three different approaches to detect acini in WSIs using the U-Net convolutional neural network architecture. The approaches differ in the target that is predicted by the network: circular mask labels, soft labels and distance maps. Our results showed that soft label targets lead to a better detection performance than the other methods. F1 scores of 0.65, 0.73 and 0.66 were obtained with circular mask labels, soft labels and distance maps, respectively. Our acini detection method was furthermore validated by applying it to measure acini count per mm2 of tissue area on an independent set of WSIs. This measure was found to be significantly negatively correlated with age.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMedical Imaging 2019
Subtitle of host publicationDigital Pathology
EditorsJohn E. Tomaszewski, Aaron D. Ward
Place of PublicationBellingham
Number of pages7
ISBN (Electronic)9781510625594
Publication statusPublished - 18 Mar 2019
EventSPIE Medical Imaging 2019 - San Diego, United States
Duration: 16 Feb 201921 Feb 2019

Publication series

NameProceedings of SPIE


ConferenceSPIE Medical Imaging 2019
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CitySan Diego


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