Quantitative analysis of Tumor Microenvironment (TME) provides prognostic and predictive information in several human cancers but, with few exceptions, it is not performed in daily clinical practice since it is extremely time-consuming. We recently showed that the morphology of Tumor Associated Macrophages (TAMs) correlates with outcome in patients with Colo-Rectal Liver Metastases (CLM). However, as for other TME components, recognizing and characterizing hundreds of TAMs in a single histopathological slide is unfeasible. To fasten this process, we explored a deep-learning based solution. We tested three Convolutional Neural Networks (CNNs), namely UNet, SegNet and DeepLab-v3, with three different segmentation strategies, semantic segmentation, pixel penalties and instance segmentation. The different experiments are compared according to the Intersection over Union (IoU), a metric describing the similarity between what CNN predicts as TAM and the ground truth, and the Symmetric Best Dice (SBD), which indicates the ability of CNN to separate different TAMs. UNet and SegNet showed intrinsic limitations in discriminating single TAMs (highest SBD 61.34±2.21), whereas DeepLab-v3 accurately recognized TAMs from the background (IoU 89.13±3.85) and separated different TAMs (SBD 79.00±3.72). This deep-learning pipeline to recognize TAMs in digital slides will allow the characterization of TAM-related metrics in the daily clinical practice, allowing the implementation of prognostic tools.
Cancian Pierandrea, Cortese Nina, Donadon Matteo, Di Maio Marco, Soldani Cristiana, Marchesi Federica, Savevski Victor, Santambrogio Marco Domenico, Cerina Luca, Laino Maria Elena, Torzilli Guido, Mantovani Alberto, Terracciano Luigi, Roncalli Massimo, Di Tommaso Luca
artificial intelligence, colo-rectal liver metastases, deep learning, digital pathology, macrophages