CONFIDENT-trial protocol: A pragmatic template for clinical implementation of artificial intelligence assistance in pathology

Rachel N Flach, Nikolas Stathonikos, Tri Q Nguyen, Natalie D Ter Hoeve, Paul J van Diest, Carmen van Dooijeweert

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Introduction Artificial intelligence (AI) has been on the rise in the field of pathology. Despite promising results in retrospective studies, and several CE-IVD certified algorithms on the market, prospective clinical implementation studies of AI have yet to be performed, to the best of our knowledge. In this trial, we will explore the benefits of an AI-assisted pathology workflow, while maintaining diagnostic safety standards. Methods and analysis This is a Standard Protocol Items: Recommendations for Interventional Trials-Artificial Intelligence compliant single-centre, controlled clinical trial, in a fully digital academic pathology laboratory. We will prospectively include prostate cancer patients who undergo prostate needle biopsies (CONFIDENT-P) and breast cancer patients who undergo a sentinel node procedure (CONFIDENT-B) in the University Medical Centre Utrecht. For both the CONFIDENT-B and CONFIDENT-P trials, the specific pathology specimens will be pseudo-randomised to be assessed by a pathologist with or without AI assistance in a pragmatic (bi-)weekly sequential design. In the intervention group, pathologists will assess whole slide images (WSI) of the standard hematoxylin and eosin (H&E)-stained sections assisted by the output of the algorithm. In the control group, pathologists will assess H&E WSI according to the current clinical workflow. If no tumour cells are identified or when the pathologist is in doubt, immunohistochemistry (IHC) staining will be performed. At least 80 patients in the CONFIDENT-P and 180 patients in the CONFIDENT-B trial will need to be enrolled to detect superiority, allocated as 1:1. Primary endpoint for both trials is the number of saved resources of IHC staining procedures for detecting tumour cells, since this will clarify tangible cost savings that will support the business case for AI. Ethics and dissemination The ethics committee (MREC NedMec) waived the need of official ethical approval, since participants are not subjected to procedures nor are they required to follow rules. Results of both trials (CONFIDENT-B and CONFIDENT-P) will be published in scientific peer-reviewed journals.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere067437
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 7 Jun 2023


  • Algorithms
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Breast Neoplasms/diagnosis
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Prospective Studies
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Prostate disease
  • Breast tumours


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