Adaptive Region Selection for Active Learning in Whole Slide Image Semantic Segmentation

by   Jingna Qiu, et al.

The process of annotating histological gigapixel-sized whole slide images (WSIs) at the pixel level for the purpose of training a supervised segmentation model is time-consuming. Region-based active learning (AL) involves training the model on a limited number of annotated image regions instead of requesting annotations of the entire images. These annotation regions are iteratively selected, with the goal of optimizing model performance while minimizing the annotated area. The standard method for region selection evaluates the informativeness of all square regions of a specified size and then selects a specific quantity of the most informative regions. We find that the efficiency of this method highly depends on the choice of AL step size (i.e., the combination of region size and the number of selected regions per WSI), and a suboptimal AL step size can result in redundant annotation requests or inflated computation costs. This paper introduces a novel technique for selecting annotation regions adaptively, mitigating the reliance on this AL hyperparameter. Specifically, we dynamically determine each region by first identifying an informative area and then detecting its optimal bounding box, as opposed to selecting regions of a uniform predefined shape and size as in the standard method. We evaluate our method using the task of breast cancer metastases segmentation on the public CAMELYON16 dataset and show that it consistently achieves higher sampling efficiency than the standard method across various AL step sizes. With only 2.6% of tissue area annotated, we achieve full annotation performance and thereby substantially reduce the costs of annotating a WSI dataset. The source code is available at


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