Background: The presence of lymph node metastases is one of the most important factors in breast cancer prognosis. The most common strategy to assess the regional lymph node status is the sentinel lymph node procedure. The sentinel lymph node is the most likely lymph node to contain metastasized cancer cells and is excised, histopathologically processed and examined by the pathologist. This tedious examination process is time-consuming and can lead to small metastases being missed. However, recent advances in whole-slide imaging and machine learning have opened an avenue for analysis of digitized lymph node sections with computer algorithms. For example, convolutional neural networks, a type of machine learning algorithm, are able to automatically detect cancer metastases in lymph nodes with high accuracy. To train machine learning models, large, well-curated datasets are needed.
Results: We released a dataset of 1399 annotated whole-slide images of lymph nodes, both with and without metastases, in total three terabytes of data in the context of the CAMELYON16 and CAMELYON17 Grand Challenges. Slides were collected from five different medical centers to cover a broad range of image appearance and staining variations. Each whole-slide image has a slide-level label indicating whether it contains no metastases, macro-metastases, micro-metastases or isolated tumor cells. Furthermore, for 209 whole-slide images, detailed hand-drawn contours for all metastases are provided. Last, open-source software tools to visualize and interact with the data have been made available.
Conclusions: A unique dataset of annotated, whole-slide digital histopathology images has been provided with high potential for re-use.