Deep learning with transfer learning in pathology. Case study: classification of basal cell carcinoma

Vol. 62 No. 4, 2021


Raluca Maria Bungardean, Mircea-Sebastian Serbanescu, Costin Teodor Streba, Maria Crisan

Establishing basal cell carcinoma (BCC) subtype is sometimes challenging for pathologists. Deep-learning (DL) algorithms are an emerging approach in image classification due to their performance, accompanied by a new concept - transfer learning, which implies replacing the final layers of a trained network and retraining it for a new task, while keeping the weights from the imported layers. A DL convolution-based software, capable of classifying 10 subtypes of BCC, was designed. Transfer learning from three general-purpose image classification networks (AlexNet, GoogLeNet, and ResNet-18) was used. Three pathologists independently labeled 2249 patches. Ninety percent of data was used for training and 10% for testing on 100 independent training sequences. Each of the resulted networks independently labeled the whole dataset. Mean and standard deviation (SD) accuracy (ACC) [%]/sensitivity (SN) [%]/specificity (SP) [%]/area under the curve (AUC) for all the networks was 82.53+/-2.63/72.52+/-3.63/97.94+/-0.3/0.99. The software was validated on another 50-image dataset, and its results are comparable with the result of three pathologists in terms of agreement. All networks had similar classification accuracies, which demonstrated that they reached a maximum classification rate on the dataset. The software shows promising results, and with further development can be successfully used on histological images, assisting pathologists diagnosis and teaching.

Corresponding author: Mircea-Sebastian Serbanescu, Associate Professor, MD, PhD; e-mail:

DOI: 10.47162/RJME.62.4.14 Download PDF
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