Deep Learning-based Radiomic Features for Improving Neoadjuvant Chemoradiation Response Prediction in Locally Advanced Rectal Cancer

Radiomic features achieve promising results in cancer diagnosis, treatment response prediction, and survival prediction. Our goal is to compare the handcrafted (explicitly designed) and deep learning (DL)-based radiomic features extracted from pre-treatment diffusion-weighted magnetic resonance images (DWIs) for predicting neoadjuvant chemoradiation treatment (nCRT) response in patients with locally advanced rectal cancer (LARC). 43 patients receiving nCRT were included. All patients underwent DWIs before nCRT and total mesorectal excision surgery 6-12 weeks after completion of nCRT. Gross tumor volume (GTV) contours were drawn by an experienced radiation oncologist on DWIs. The patient-cohort was split into the responder group (n=22) and the non-responder group (n=21) based on the post-nCRT response assessed by postoperative pathology, MRI or colonoscopy. Handcrafted and DL-based features were extracted from the apparent diffusion coefficient (ADC) map of the DWI using conventional computer-aided diagnosis methods and a pre-trained convolution neural network, respectively. Least absolute shrinkage and selection operator (LASSO)-logistic regression models were constructed using extracted features for predicting treatment response. The model performance was evaluated with repeated 20 times stratified 4-fold cross-validation using receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curves and compared using the corrected resampled t-test. The model built with handcrafted features achieved the mean area under the ROC curve (AUC) of 0.64, while the one built with DL-based features yielded the mean AUC of 0.73. The corrected resampled t-test on AUC showed P-value < 0.05. DL-based features extracted from pre-treatment DWIs achieved significantly better classification performance compared with handcrafted features for predicting nCRT response in patients with LARC.

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