Machine-based detection and classification for bone marrow aspirate differential counts: initial development focusing on nonneoplastic cells

Ramraj Chandradevan, Ahmed A. Aljudi, Bradley R. Drumheller, Nilakshan Kunananthaseelan, Mohamed Amgad, David A. Gutman, Lee A.D. Cooper*, David L. Jaye

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

72 Scopus citations


Bone marrow aspirate (BMA) differential cell counts (DCCs) are critical for the classification of hematologic disorders. While manual counts are considered the gold standard, they are labor intensive, time consuming, and subject to bias. A reliable automated counter has yet to be developed, largely due to the inherent complexity of bone marrow specimens. Digital pathology imaging coupled with machine learning algorithms represents a highly promising emerging technology for this purpose. Yet, training datasets for BMA cellular constituents, critical for building and validating machine learning algorithms, are lacking. Herein, we report our experience creating and employing such datasets to develop a machine learning algorithm to detect and classify BMA cells. Utilizing a web-based system that we developed for annotating and managing digital pathology images, over 10,000 cells from scanned whole slide images of BMA smears were manually annotated, including all classes that comprise the standard clinical DCC. We implemented a two-stage, detection and classification approach that allows design flexibility and improved classification accuracy. In a sixfold cross-validation, our algorithms achieved high overall accuracy in detection (0.959 ± 0.008 precision-recall AUC) and classification (0.982 ± 0.03 ROC AUC) using nonneoplastic samples. Testing on a small set of acute myeloid leukemia and multiple myeloma samples demonstrated similar detection and classification performance. In summary, our algorithms showed promising early results and represent an important initial step in the effort to devise a reliable, objective method to automate DCCs. With further development to include formal clinical validation, such a system has the potential to assist in disease diagnosis and prognosis, and significantly impact clinical practice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)98-109
Number of pages12
JournalLaboratory Investigation
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Cell Biology


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