Innovative Strides in AI for Cancer Diagnosis

By Siqi Liu, Paige’s Director of AI Science

In the fall of 2023, Paige, a leading healthcare technology company specializing in AI for cancer diagnosis, announced a landmark collaboration with Microsoft Research to develop what is being celebrated as the world’s largest image-based AI model dedicated to cancer research. The fruition of this collaboration, the Foundation Model named Virchow, has not only been revealed, but has also showcased substantial advancements in its capabilities in less than six months.

Unveiling Virchow V1: A Major Leap in Computational Pathology

There was palpable enthusiasm when Paige launched Virchow V1, a huge AI model fully trained on an impressive 1.5 million H&E-stained slides used by pathologists for cancer diagnoses. The model, he explained, goes beyond conventional AI applications by generating detailed tile embeddings from whole slide images (WSIs), essentially creating intricate digital fingerprints of tissue tiles. These embeddings, capturing unique histological features, empowering pathologists with advanced insights for diagnosis, research, and personalized patient care.

The Virchow model represents a true breakthrough in computational pathology, boasting capabilities such as a pan-cancer detection system, a pioneering advancement in pathology. Liu highlighted its superior accuracy, especially in the detection of rare cancers, marking a pivotal development in the field.

Redefining Cancer Detection: Early Results of the Pan-Tumor Model

Liu discussed the early results of the pan-tumor model, emphasizing its remarkable effectiveness in detecting a broad spectrum of cancers. The model exhibits a specimen-level AUC of 0.95 for common cancers and 0.93 for rare cancers, showcasing robust performance. This success not only underscores the potential of a unified AI-driven approach but also positions Virchow as a crucial support tool for pathologists, especially in critical areas like rare tumor detection.

Overcoming Challenges: The Solution to Identifying Rare Cancers

Addressing a critical question about the previous limitations of identifying rare cancers, Liu explained that traditional machine learning models struggled due to limited data. However, the Foundation Model overcomes this challenge by leveraging a diverse, large-scale dataset. This strategic approach enables the model to learn on various tissue types and effectively discern the tissue patterns of rare cancers, even in the face of data scarcity.

The Crucial Role of a Million-Slide Dataset in Advancing Digital Pathology

Liu emphasized the importance of training on a massive dataset, citing its vital role in creating precise and universally applicable algorithms. Extensive data ensures not only empirical robustness but also clinical validity, encompassing diverse scenarios encountered in clinical practice. This equips the model to perform effectively in real-world medical settings, leading to improved patient care.

Tailoring Virchow to Real-World Digital Pathology Applications

The Virchow model is strategically tailored to meet the demands of real-world digital pathology applications according to Liu. By employing a Vision Transformer (ViT-H), the model strikes a balance between representation power and computational cost. This strategic choice makes the model powerful enough for processing complex pathology data while remaining cost-effective for widespread use in real clinical environments.

Paige’s Virchow V1: The State-of-the-Art Foundation Model for Computational Pathology

When Liu describes the Virchow model as state-of-the-art, he refers to its exceptional performance across a spectrum of benchmark tasks and its use of the most advanced computer vision and AI technologies tailored for computational pathology. This level of performance indicates the potential to transform future practices in digital pathology, improving patient outcomes and healthcare delivery systems.

Looking Ahead: The Future of Virchow

Future plans for Virchow include the broadening of the benchmark suite to test Virchow V1 across a wider spectrum of computational pathology applications. Simultaneously, the development of Virchow V2 is underway, aiming to enlarge the training dataset, extend capabilities to include a broader spectrum of stains beyond H&E, and refine training methodologies for more effective research and development.

Paige’s strides in AI for cancer diagnosis exemplify a commitment to innovation and collaboration. The Virchow Foundation Model stands as a testament to the potential of AI in revolutionizing pathology and oncology. As Paige looks toward the future, the company’s dedication to sharing findings with the broader research community reflects a collaborative spirit aimed at pushing the boundaries of the field for the betterment of patient care.


Siqi Liu is the Director of AI Science at Paige, a leading healthcare technology company specializing in AI for cancer diagnosis. Previously, he was a research scientist at Siemens Healthineers. Siqi earned his Master’s in Computer Science and PhD in Biomedical Image Computing from the University of Sydney.

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