Generalization of Deep Learning in Digital Pathology: Experience in Breast Cancer Metastasis Detection.

S. Jarkman, M. Karlberg, M. Poceviciute, A. Boden, P. Bandi, G. Litjens, C. Lundstrom, D. Treanor and J. van der Laak

Cancers 2022;14(21).

DOI PMID Cited by ~10

Poor generalizability is a major barrier to clinical implementation of artificial intelligence in digital pathology. The aim of this study was to test the generalizability of a pretrained deep learning model to a new diagnostic setting and to a small change in surgical indication. A deep learning model for breast cancer metastases detection in sentinel lymph nodes, trained on CAMELYON multicenter data, was used as a base model, and achieved an AUC of 0.969 (95% CI 0.926-0.998) and FROC of 0.838 (95% CI 0.757-0.913) on CAMELYON16 test data. On local sentinel node data, the base model performance dropped to AUC 0.929 (95% CI 0.800-0.998) and FROC 0.744 (95% CI 0.566-0.912). On data with a change in surgical indication (axillary dissections) the base model performance indicated an even larger drop with a FROC of 0.503 (95%CI 0.201-0.911). The model was retrained with addition of local data, resulting in about a 4% increase for both AUC and FROC for sentinel nodes, and an increase of 11% in AUC and 49% in FROC for axillary nodes. Pathologist qualitative evaluation of the retrained model's output showed no missed positive slides. False positives, false negatives and one previously undetected micro-metastasis were observed. The study highlights the generalization challenge even when using a multicenter trained model, and that a small change in indication can considerably impact the model's performance.