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Classification and mutation prediction from non–small cell lung cancer histopathology images using deep learning



Visual inspection of histopathology slides is one of the main methods used by pathologists to assess the stage, type and subtype of lung tumors. Adenocarcinoma (LUAD) and squamous cell carcinoma (LUSC) are the most prevalent subtypes of lung cancer, and their distinction requires visual inspection by an experienced pathologist. In this study, we trained a deep convolutional neural network (inception v3) on whole-slide images obtained from The Cancer Genome Atlas to accurately and automatically classify them into LUAD, LUSC or normal lung tissue. The performance of our method is comparable to that of pathologists, with an average area under the curve (AUC) of 0.97. Our model was validated on independent datasets of frozen tissues, formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded tissues and biopsies. Furthermore, we trained the network to predict the ten most commonly mutated genes in LUAD. We found that six of them—STK11, EGFR, FAT1, SETBP1, KRAS and TP53—can be predicted from pathology images, with AUCs from 0.733 to 0.856 as measured on a held-out population. These findings suggest that deep-learning models can assist pathologists in the detection of cancer subtype or gene mutations. Our approach can be applied to any cancer type, and the code is available at

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Data availability

All relevant data used for training during the current study are available through the Genomic Data Commons portal ( These datasets were generated by TCGA Research Network (, and they have made them publicly available. Other datasets analyzed during the current study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.

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We would like to thank the Applied Bioinformatics Laboratories (ABL) at the NYU School of Medicine for providing bioinformatics support and helping with the analysis and interpretation of the data. The Applied Bioinformatics Laboratories are a Shared Resource, partially supported by the Cancer Center Support Grant, P30CA016087 (A.T.), at the Laura and Isaac Perlmutter Cancer Center (A.T.). For this work, we used computing resources at the High-Performance Computing Facility (HPC) at NYU Langone Medical Center. The slide images and the corresponding cancer information were uploaded from the Genomic Data Commons portal ( and are in whole or in part based upon data generated by the TCGA Research Network ( These data were publicly available without restriction, authentication or authorization necessary. We thank the GDC help desk for providing assistance and information regarding the TCGA dataset. For the independent cohorts, we only used whole-slide images; the NYU dataset we used consists of slide images without identifiable information and therefore does not require approval according to both federal regulations and the NYU School of Medicine Institutional Review Board. For this same reason, written informed consent was not necessary. We thank C. Dickerson, from the Center for Biospecimen Research and Development (CBRD), for scanning the whole-slide images from the NYU Langone Medical Center. We also thank T. Papagiannakopoulos, H. Pass and K.-K. Wong or their valuable and constructive suggestions.

Author information

N.C. performed the experiments; N.C., A.T. and N.R. designed the experiments; N.C. and T.S. wrote the code to achieve different tasks; T.S. gathered the mutation information and contributed to their analysis; M.S. helped identify cases validated by next-generation sequencing; A.L.M. and P.S.O. collected and labeled the independent cohorts. A.L.M, P.S.O and N.N. manually labeled the TCGA dataset; N.C., A.L.M., P.S.O., N.R. and A.T. contributed to the analysis of the data; D.F., N.R. and A.T. conceived and directed the project; N.C., A.T., N.R., A.L.M. and P.S.O. wrote the manuscript with the assistance and feedback of all the other co-authors.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Correspondence to Narges Razavian or Aristotelis Tsirigos.

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Fig. 1: Data and strategy.
Fig. 2: Classification of presence and type of tumor on alternative cohorts.
Fig. 3: Gene mutation prediction from histopathology slides give promising results for at least six genes.
Fig. 4: Spatial heterogeneity of predicted mutations.