Stain-Transforming Cycle-Consistent Generative Adversarial Networks for Improved Segmentation of Renal Histopathology

T. de Bel, M. Hermsen, J. Kers, J. van der Laak and G. Litjens

Medical Imaging with Deep Learning 2019.

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The performance of deep learning applications in digital histopathology can deteriorate significantly due to staining variations across centers. We employ cycle-consistent generative adversarial networks (cycleGANs) for unpaired image-to-image translation, facilitating between-center stain transformation. We find that modifications to the original cycleGAN architecture make it more suitable for stain transformation, creating artificially stained images of high quality. Specifically, changing the generator model to a smaller U-net-like architecture, adding an identity loss term, increasing the batch size and the learning all led to improved training stability and performance. Furthermore, we propose a method for dealing with tiling artifacts when applying the network on whole slide images (WSIs). We apply our stain transformation method on two datasets of PAS-stained (Periodic Acid-Schiff) renal tissue sections from different centers. We show that stain transformation is beneficial to the performance of cross-center segmentation, raising the Dice coefficient from 0.36 to 0.85 and from 0.45 to 0.73 on the two datasets.