The accurate identification of different lung adenocarcinoma histologic subtypes is important for determining prognosis but can be challenging because of overlaps in the diagnostic features, leading to considerable interobserver variability.


To provide an overview of the diagnostic agreement for lung adenocarcinoma subtypes among pathologists and to create a ground truth using the clustering approach for downstream computational applications.


Three sets of lung adenocarcinoma histologic images with different evaluation levels (small patches, areas with relatively uniform histology, and whole slide images) were reviewed by 18 international expert lung pathologists. Each image was classified into one or several lung adenocarcinoma subtypes.


Among the 4702 patches of the first set, 1742 (37%) had an overall consensus among all pathologists. The overall Fleiss κ score for the agreement of all subtypes was 0.58. Using cluster analysis, pathologists were hierarchically grouped into 2 clusters, with κ scores of 0.588 and 0.563 in clusters 1 and 2, respectively. Similar results were obtained for the second and third sets, with fair-to-moderate agreements. Patches from the first 2 sets that obtained the consensus of the 18 pathologists were retrieved to form consensus patches and were regarded as the ground truth of lung adenocarcinoma subtypes.


Our observations highlight discrepancies among experts when assessing lung adenocarcinoma subtypes. However, a subsequent number of consensus patches could be retrieved from each cluster, which can be used as ground truth for the downstream computational pathology applications, with minimal influence from interobserver variability.

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Soshi is the CEO of BonBon Co, Ltd. The other authors have no relevant financial interest in the products or companies described in this article.

Competing Interests

This paper is based on results obtained from a project, 19100971-0, commissioned by the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO).

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