A Bayesian mark interaction model for analysis of tumor pathology images

Qiwei Li, Xinlei Wang, Faming Liang, Guanghua Xiao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


With the advance of imaging technology, digital pathology imaging of tumor tissue slides is becoming a routine clinical procedure for cancer diagnosis. This process produces massive imaging data that capture histological details in high resolution. Recent developments in deep-learning methods have enabled us to identify and classify individual cells from digital pathology images at large scale. The randomly distributed cells can be considered from a marked point process, where each point is defined by its position and cell type. Reliable statistical approaches to model such marked spatial point patterns can provide new insight into tumor progression and shed light on the biological mechanisms of cancer. In this paper, we consider the problem of modeling spatial correlations among three commonly seen cells (i.e. lymphocyte, stromal, and tumor) observed in tumor pathology images. A novel marking model of marked point processes, with interpretable underlying parameters (some of which are clinically meaningful), is proposed in a Bayesian framework. We use Markov chain Monte Carlo (MCMC) sampling techniques, combined with the double Metropolis-Hastings (DMH) algorithm, to sample from the posterior distribution with an intractable normalizing constant. On the benchmark datasets, we demonstrate how this model-based analysis can lead to sharper inferences than ordinary exploratory analyses. Lastly, we conduct a case study on the pathology images of 188 lung cancer patients from the National Lung Screening Trial. The results show that the spatial correlation between tumor and stromal cells predicts patient prognosis. This statistical methodology not only presents a new model for characterizing spatial correlations in a multi-type spatial point pattern, but also provides a new perspective for understanding the role of cell-cell interactions in cancer progression.

MSC Codes 62M30, 62F15

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalUnknown Journal
StatePublished - Feb 22 2018


  • Double Metropolis-Hastings
  • Marked point process
  • Markov random field
  • Spatial correlation
  • Spatial point pattern

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General

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