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Histopathology Whole Slide Image Analysis With Heterogeneous Graph Representation Learning
Graph-based methods have been extensively applied to whole slide histopathology image (WSI) analysis due to the advantage of modeling the spatial relationships among different entities. However, most of the existing methods focus on modeling WSIs with homogeneous graphs (e.g., with homogeneous node type). Despite their successes, these works are incapable of mining the complex structural relations between biological entities (e.g., the diverse interaction among different cell types) in the WSI. We propose a novel heterogeneous graph-based framework to leverage the inter-relationships among different types of nuclei for WSI analysis. Specifically, we formulate the WSI as a heterogeneous graph with "nucleus-type" attribute to each node and a semantic similarity attribute to each edge. We then present a new heterogeneous-graph edge attribute transformer (HEAT) to take advantage of the edge and node heterogeneity during massage aggregating. Further, we design a new pseudo-label-based semantic-consistent pooling mechanism to obtain graph-level features, which can mitigate the over-parameterization issue of conventional cluster-based pooling. Additionally, observing the limitations of existing association-based localization methods, we propose a causal-driven approach attributing the contribution of each node to improve the interpretability of our framework. Extensive experiments on three public TCGA benchmark datasets demonstrate that our framework outperforms the state-of-the-art methods with considerable margins on various tasks. Our codes are available at https://github.com/HKU-MedAI/WSI-HGNN.