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Intelligent feature engineering and ontological mapping of brain tumour histomorphologies by deep learning

A Publisher Correction to this article was published on 10 December 2019

This article has been updated


Deep learning is an emerging transformative tool in diagnostic medicine, yet limited access and the interpretability of learned parameters hinders widespread adoption. Here we have generated a diverse repository of 838,644 histopathologic images and used them to optimize and discretize learned representations into 512-dimensional feature vectors. Importantly, we show that individual machine-engineered features correlate with salient human-derived morphologic constructs and ontological relationships. Deciphering the overlap between human and machine reasoning may aid in eliminating biases and improving automation and accountability for artificial intelligence-assisted medicine.

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Fig. 1: Dataset development and deep learning strategy.
Fig. 2: Ontological arrangement of brain tumour histopathologic patterns by deep learning.
Fig. 3: Correlation and prediction of histologic patterns using individual cluster-enriched DLFs.
Fig. 4: Testing of individual DLFs and DLFVs on an independent cohort of cases.

Data availability

The full image training datasets used to generate the DLFVs are available on Bitbucket ( ( External testing images generated by the TCGA Research Network ( are also publicly available without restrictions.

Code availability

Code and both the general and 1p19q-codeletion trained CNN models are available on Bitbucket ( and A stand-alone computing capsule is available on Code Ocean for Feature Vector Extraction and Clustering ( and for feature activation map (FAM) generation (

Change history

  • 10 December 2019

    An amendment to this paper has been published and can be accessed via a link at the top of the paper.


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Funding support for this research and trainees is provided by the Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation, an Adam Coules Research Grant, the Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology at the University Health Network, the Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada, the American Society of Clinical Oncology Career Development Award (ASCO-CDA) and The Brain Tumour Charity Expanding Theories Research Grant Program (GN-000560). We thank P. Boutros for critical feedback and suggestions.

Author information




K.F., U.D. and P.D. conceived the idea and approach. K.F. developed the computational workflow. S.B., R.A.Q., A.P., P.D. and R.v.O. reviewed and selected the included cases and annotated and generated the image dataset. K.F., U.D., R.v.O. and P.D. wrote the manuscript, with input from all other authors.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Phedias Diamandis.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

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Faust, K., Bala, S., van Ommeren, R. et al. Intelligent feature engineering and ontological mapping of brain tumour histomorphologies by deep learning. Nat Mach Intell 1, 316–321 (2019).

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