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Machine learning approaches for pathologic diagnosis


Machine learning techniques, especially deep learning techniques such as convolutional neural networks, have been successfully applied to general image recognitions since their overwhelming performance at the 2012 ImageNet Large Scale Visual Recognition Challenge. Recently, such techniques have also been applied to various medical, including histopathological, images to assist the process of medical diagnosis. In some cases, deep learning–based algorithms have already outperformed experienced pathologists for recognition of histopathological images. However, pathological images differ from general images in some aspects, and thus, machine learning of histopathological images requires specialized learning methods. Moreover, many pathologists are skeptical about the ability of deep learning technology to accurately recognize histopathological images because what the learned neural network recognizes is often indecipherable to humans. In this review, we first introduce various applications incorporating machine learning developed to assist the process of pathologic diagnosis, and then describe machine learning problems related to histopathological image analysis, and review potential ways to solve these problems.

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This study was supported by the Practical Research for Innovative Cancer Control from the Japan Agency for Medical Research and Development (AMED) (S.I.).


Ishikawa S and Komura D wrote and reviewed the manuscript.


This research was supported by AMED under the Practical Research for Innovative Cancer Control, grant number JP19ck0106400 (S.I.).

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Correspondence to Shumpei Ishikawa.

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Komura, D., Ishikawa, S. Machine learning approaches for pathologic diagnosis. Virchows Arch 475, 131–138 (2019).

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  • Machine learning
  • Deep learning
  • Digital pathology
  • WSI (whole slide image)