Primary management for head and neck cancers, including squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), involves surgical resection with negative cancer margins. Pathologists guide surgeons during these operations by detecting cancer in histology slides made from the excised tissue. In this study, 381 digitized, histological whole-slide images (WSI) from 156 patients with head and neck cancer were used to train, validate, and test an inception-v4 convolutional neural network. The proposed method is able to detect and localize primary head and neck SCC on WSI with an AUC of 0.916 for patients in the SCC testing group and 0.954 for patients in the thyroid carcinoma testing group. Moreover, the proposed method is able to diagnose WSI with cancer versus normal slides with an AUC of 0.944 and 0.995 for the SCC and thyroid carcinoma testing groups, respectively. For comparison, we tested the proposed, diagnostic method on an open-source dataset of WSI from sentinel lymph nodes with breast cancer metastases, CAMELYON 2016, to obtain patch-based cancer localization and slide-level cancer diagnoses. The experimental design yields a robust method with potential to help create a tool to increase efficiency and accuracy of pathologists detecting head and neck cancers in histological images.
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