Image-based consensus molecular subtyping in rectal cancer biopsies and response to neoadjuvant chemoradiotherapy

Maxime W. Lafarge, Enric Domingo, Korsuk Sirinukunwattana, Ruby Wood, Leslie Samuel, Graeme Murray, Susan D. Richman, Andrew Blake, David Sebag-Montefiore, Simon Gollins, Eckhard Klieser, Daniel Neureiter, Florian Huemer, Richard Greil, Philip Dunne, Philip Quirke, Lukas Weiss, Jens Rittscher, Tim Maughan, Viktor H. Koelzer*

*Corresponding author for this work

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The development of deep learning (DL) models to predict the consensus molecular subtypes (CMS) from histopathology images (imCMS) is a promising and cost-effective strategy to support patient stratification. Here, we investigate whether imCMS calls generated from whole slide histopathology images (WSIs) of rectal cancer (RC) pre-treatment biopsies are associated with pathological complete response (pCR) to neoadjuvant long course chemoradiotherapy (LCRT) with single agent fluoropyrimidine. DL models were trained to classify WSIs of colorectal cancers stained with hematoxylin and eosin into one of the four CMS classes using a multi-centric dataset of resection and biopsy specimens (n = 1057 WSIs) with paired transcriptional data. Classifiers were tested on a held out RC biopsy cohort (ARISTOTLE) and correlated with pCR to LCRT in an independent dataset merging two RC cohorts (ARISTOTLE, n = 114 and SALZBURG, n = 55 patients). DL models predicted CMS with high classification performance in multiple comparative analyses. In the independent cohorts (ARISTOTLE, SALZBURG), cases with WSIs classified as imCMS1 had a significantly higher likelihood of achieving pCR (OR = 2.69, 95% CI 1.01–7.17, p = 0.048). Conversely, imCMS4 was associated with lack of pCR (OR = 0.25, 95% CI 0.07–0.88, p = 0.031). Classification maps demonstrated pathologist-interpretable associations with high stromal content in imCMS4 cases, associated with poor outcome. No significant association was found in imCMS2 or imCMS3. imCMS classification of pre-treatment biopsies is a fast and inexpensive solution to identify patient groups that could benefit from neoadjuvant LCRT. The significant associations between imCMS1/imCMS4 with pCR suggest the existence of predictive morphological features that could enhance standard pathological assessment.

Original languageEnglish
Article number89
Journalnpj Precision Oncology
Publication statusPublished - 09 Apr 2024

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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