Automated robust registration of grossly misregistered whole-slide images with varying stains

G. Litjens, K. Safferling and N. Grabe

in: Medical Imaging, volume 9791 of SPIE, 2016, pages 979103

DOI

Abstract

Cancer diagnosis and pharmaceutical research increasingly depend on the accurate quantification of cancer biomarkers. Identification of biomarkers is usually performed through immunohistochemical staining of cancer sections on glass slides. However, combination of multiple biomarkers from a wide variety of immunohistochemically stained slides is a tedious process in traditional histopathology due to the switching of glass slides and re-identification of regions of interest by pathologists. Digital pathology now allows us to apply image registration algorithms to digitized whole-slides to align the differing immunohistochemical stains automatically. However, registration algorithms need to be robust to changes in color due to differing stains and severe changes in tissue content between slides. In this work we developed a robust registration methodology to allow for fast coarse alignment of multiple immunohistochemical stains to the base hematyoxylin and eosin stained image. We applied HSD color model conversion to obtain a less stain color dependent representation of the whole-slide images. Subsequently, optical density thresholding and connected component analysis were used to identify the relevant regions for registration. Template matching using normalized mutual information was applied to provide initial translation and rotation parameters, after which a cost function-driven affine registration was performed. The algorithm was validated using 40 slides from 10 prostate cancer patients, with landmark registration error as a metric. Median landmark registration error was around 180 microns, which indicates performance is adequate for practical application. None of the registrations failed, indicating the robustness of the algorithm.