Leukocyte classification for acute lymphoblastic leukemia timely diagnosis by interpretable artificial neural network

Agnese Sbrollini, Selene Tomassini, Ruba Sharaan, Micaela Morettini, Aldo Franco Dragoni, Laura Burattini


Leukemia is a blood cancer characterized by leukocyte overproduction. Clinically, the reference for acute lymphoblastic leukemia diagnosis is a blood biopsy that allows obtain microscopic images of leukocytes, whose early-stage classification into leukemic (LEU) and healthy (HEA) may be disease predictor. Thus, the aim of this study is to propose an interpretable artificial neural network (ANN) for leukocyte classification to timely diagnose acute lymphoblastic leukemia. The “ALL_IDB2” dataset was used. It contains 260 microscopic images showing leukocytes acquired from 130 LEU and 130 HEA subjects. Each microscopic image shows a single leukocyte that was characterized by 8 morphological and 4 statistical features. An ANN was developed to distinguish microscopic images acquired from LEU and HEA subjects, considering 12 features as inputs and the local-interpretable model-agnostic explanatory (LIME) algorithm as an interpretable post-processing algorithm. The ANN was evaluated by the leave-one-out cross-validation procedure. The performance of our ANN is promising, presenting a testing area under the curve of the receiver operating characteristic equal to 87%. Being implemented using standard features and having LIME as a post-processing algorithm, it is clinically interpretable. Therefore, our ANN seems to be a reliable instrument for leukocyte classification to timely diagnose acute lymphoblastic leukemia, guaranteeing a high clinical interpretability level.


Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia; Artificial Neural Networks; Morphological and Statistical Features; Interpretability; LIME

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