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ArXiv Preprint

The classification of histopathological images is of great value in both cancer diagnosis and pathological studies. However, multiple reasons, such as variations caused by magnification factors and class imbalance, make it a challenging task where conventional methods that learn from image-label datasets perform unsatisfactorily in many cases. We observe that tumours of the same class often share common morphological patterns. To exploit this fact, we propose an approach that learns similarity-based multi-scale embeddings (SMSE) for magnification-independent histopathological image classification. In particular, a pair loss and a triplet loss are leveraged to learn similarity-based embeddings from image pairs or image triplets. The learned embeddings provide accurate measurements of similarities between images, which are regarded as a more effective form of representation for histopathological morphology than normal image features. Furthermore, in order to ensure the generated models are magnification-independent, images acquired at different magnification factors are simultaneously fed to networks during training for learning multi-scale embeddings. In addition to the SMSE, to eliminate the impact of class imbalance, instead of using the hard sample mining strategy that intuitively discards some easy samples, we introduce a new reinforced focal loss to simultaneously punish hard misclassified samples while suppressing easy well-classified samples. Experimental results show that the SMSE improves the performance for histopathological image classification tasks for both breast and liver cancers by a large margin compared to previous methods. In particular, the SMSE achieves the best performance on the BreakHis benchmark with an improvement ranging from 5% to 18% compared to previous methods using traditional features.

Yibao Sun, Xingru Huang, Yaqi Wang, Huiyu Zhou, Qianni Zhang