Self-Supervision Closes the Gap Between Weak and Strong Supervision in Histology

12/07/2020
by   Olivier Dehaene, et al.
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One of the biggest challenges for applying machine learning to histopathology is weak supervision: whole-slide images have billions of pixels yet often only one global label. The state of the art therefore relies on strongly-supervised model training using additional local annotations from domain experts. However, in the absence of detailed annotations, most weakly-supervised approaches depend on a frozen feature extractor pre-trained on ImageNet. We identify this as a key weakness and propose to train an in-domain feature extractor on histology images using MoCo v2, a recent self-supervised learning algorithm. Experimental results on Camelyon16 and TCGA show that the proposed extractor greatly outperforms its ImageNet counterpart. In particular, our results improve the weakly-supervised state of the art on Camelyon16 from 91.4 98.7 99.3 trained via self-supervised learning can act as drop-in replacements to significantly improve existing machine learning techniques in histology. Lastly, we show that the learned embedding space exhibits biologically meaningful separation of tissue structures.

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