Domain-specific optimization and diverse evaluation of self-supervised models for histopathology

Jeremy Lai
Faruk Ahmed
Supriya Vijay
Jessica Loo
Saurabh Vyawahare
Saloni Agarwal
Fayaz Jamil
Jonathan Krause
Cameron Chen


Task-specific deep learning models in histopathology offer promising opportunities for improving diagnosis, clinical research, and precision medicine. However, development of such models is often limited by availability of high-quality data. Foundation models in histopathology that learn general representations across a wide range of tissue types, diagnoses, and magnifications offer the potential to reduce the data, compute, and technical expertise necessary to develop task-specific deep learning models with the required level of model performance. In this work, we describe the development and evaluation of foundation models for histopathology via self-supervised learning (SSL). We first establish a diverse set of benchmark tasks involving 17 unique tissue types and 12 unique cancer types and spanning different optimal magnifications and task types. Next, we use this benchmark to explore and evaluate histopathology-specific SSL methods followed by further evaluation on held out patch-level and weakly supervised tasks. We found that standard SSL methods thoughtfully applied to histopathology images are performant across our benchmark tasks and that domain-specific methodological improvements can further increase performance. Our findings reinforce the value of using domain-specific SSL methods in pathology, and establish a set of high quality foundation models to enable further research across diverse applications.