The systematic analysis of imaged pathology specimens often results in a vast amount of morphological information at both the cellular and sub-cellular scales. While microscopy scanners and computerized analysis are capable of capturing and analyzing data rapidly, microscopy image data remain underutilized in research and clinical settings. One major obstacle which tends to reduce wider adoption of these new technologies throughout the clinical and scientific communities is the challenge of managing, querying, and integrating the vast amounts of data resulting from the analysis of large digital pathology datasets. This paper presents a data model, which addresses these challenges, and demonstrates its implementation in a relational database system.
This paper describes a data model, referred to as Pathology Analytic Imaging Standards (PAIS), and a database implementation, which are designed to support the data management and query requirements of detailed characterization of micro-anatomic morphology through many interrelated analysis pipelines on whole-slide images and tissue microarrays (TMAs).
(1) Development of a data model capable of efficiently representing and storing virtual slide related image, annotation, markup, and feature information. (2) Development of a database, based on the data model, capable of supporting queries for data retrieval based on analysis and image metadata, queries for comparison of results from different analyses, and spatial queries on segmented regions, features, and classified objects.
Settings and Design:
The work described in this paper is motivated by the challenges associated with characterization of micro-scale features for comparative and correlative analyses involving whole-slides tissue images and TMAs. Technologies for digitizing tissues have advanced significantly in the past decade. Slide scanners are capable of producing high-magnification, high-resolution images from whole slides and TMAs within several minutes. Hence, it is becoming increasingly feasible for basic, clinical, and translational research studies to produce thousands of whole-slide images. Systematic analysis of these large datasets requires efficient data management support for representing and indexing results from hundreds of interrelated analyses generating very large volumes of quantifications such as shape and texture and of classifications of the quantified features.
Materials and Methods:
We have designed a data model and a database to address the data management requirements of detailed characterization of micro-anatomic morphology through many interrelated analysis pipelines. The data model represents virtual slide related image, annotation, markup and feature information. The database supports a wide range of metadata and spatial queries on images, annotations, markups, and features.
We currently have three databases running on a Dell PowerEdge T410 server with CentOS 5.5 Linux operating system. The database server is IBM DB2 Enterprise Edition 9.7.2. The set of databases consists of 1) a TMA database containing image analysis results from 4740 cases of breast cancer, with 641 MB storage size; 2) an algorithm validation database, which stores markups and annotations from two segmentation algorithms and two parameter sets on 18 selected slides, with 66 GB storage size; and 3) an in silico brain tumor study database comprising results from 307 TCGA slides, with 365 GB storage size. The latter two databases also contain human-generated annotations and markups for regions and nuclei.
Modeling and managing pathology image analysis results in a database provide immediate benefits on the value and usability of data in a research study. The database provides powerful query capabilities, which are otherwise difficult or cumbersome to support by other approaches such as programming languages. Standardized, semantic annotated data representation and interfaces also make it possible to more efficiently share image data and analysis results.