An optimal transportation approach for nuclear structure-based pathology.
Nuclear morphology and structure as visualized from histopathology microscopy images can yield important diagnostic clues in some benign and malignant tissue lesions. Precise quantitative information about nuclear structure and morphology, however, is currently not available for many diagnostic challenges. This is due, in part, to the lack of methods to quantify these differences from image data. We describe a method to characterize and contrast the distribution of nuclear structure in different tissue classes (normal, benign, cancer, etc.). The approach is based on quantifying chromatin morphology in different groups of cells using the optimal transportation (Kantorovich-Wasserstein) metric in combination with the Fisher discriminant analysis and multidimensional scaling techniques. We show that the optimal transportation metric is able to measure relevant biological information as it enables automatic determination of the class (e.g., normal versus cancer) of a set of nuclei. We show that the classification accuracies obtained using this metric are, on average, as good or better than those obtained utilizing a set of previously described numerical features. We apply our methods to two diagnostic challenges for surgical pathology: one in the liver and one in the thyroid. Results automatically computed using this technique show potentially biologically relevant differences in nuclear structure in liver and thyroid cancers.