Segmentation and classification of colon glands with deep convolutional neural networks and total variation regularization

Philipp Kainz, Michael Pfeiffer, Martin Urschler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Segmentation of histopathology sections is a necessary preprocessing step for digital pathology. Due to the large variability of biological tissue, machine learning techniques have shown superior performance over conventional image processing methods. Here we present our deep neural network-based approach for segmentation and classification of glands in tissue of benign and malignant colorectal cancer, which was developed to participate in the GlaS@MICCAI2015 colon gland segmentation challenge. We use two distinct deep convolutional neural networks (CNN) for pixel-wise classification of Hematoxylin-Eosin stained images. While the first classifier separates glands from background, the second classifier identifies gland-separating structures. In a subsequent step, a figure-ground segmentation based on weighted total variation produces the final segmentation result by regularizing the CNN predictions. We present both quantitative and qualitative segmentation results on the recently released and publicly available Warwick-QU colon adenocarcinoma dataset associated with the GlaS@MICCAI2015 challenge and compare our approach to the simultaneously developed other approaches that participated in the same challenge. On two test sets, we demonstrate our segmentation performance and show that we achieve a tissue classification accuracy of 98% and 95%, making use of the inherent capability of our system to distinguish between benign and malignant tissue. Our results show that deep learning approaches can yield highly accurate and reproducible results for biomedical image analysis, with the potential to significantly improve the quality and speed of medical diagnoses.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere3874
Number of pages28
Publication statusPublished - 3 Oct 2017

Fields of Expertise

  • Information, Communication & Computing


  • BioTechMed-Graz

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