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In Journal of clinical oncology : official journal of the American Society of Clinical Oncology ; h5-index 0.0

PURPOSE : Extranodal extension (ENE) is a well-established poor prognosticator and an indication for adjuvant treatment escalation in patients with head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC). Identification of ENE on pretreatment imaging represents a diagnostic challenge that limits its clinical utility. We previously developed a deep learning algorithm that identifies ENE on pretreatment computed tomography (CT) imaging in patients with HNSCC. We sought to validate our algorithm performance for patients from a diverse set of institutions and compare its diagnostic ability to that of expert diagnosticians.

METHODS : We obtained preoperative, contrast-enhanced CT scans and corresponding pathology results from two external data sets of patients with HNSCC: an external institution and The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) HNSCC imaging data. Lymph nodes were segmented and annotated as ENE-positive or ENE-negative on the basis of pathologic confirmation. Deep learning algorithm performance was evaluated and compared directly to two board-certified neuroradiologists.

RESULTS : A total of 200 lymph nodes were examined in the external validation data sets. For lymph nodes from the external institution, the algorithm achieved an area under the receiver operating characteristic curve (AUC) of 0.84 (83.1% accuracy), outperforming radiologists' AUCs of 0.70 and 0.71 (P = .02 and P = .01). Similarly, for lymph nodes from the TCGA, the algorithm achieved an AUC of 0.90 (88.6% accuracy), outperforming radiologist AUCs of 0.60 and 0.82 (P < .0001 and P = .16). Radiologist diagnostic accuracy improved when receiving deep learning assistance.

CONCLUSION : Deep learning successfully identified ENE on pretreatment imaging across multiple institutions, exceeding the diagnostic ability of radiologists with specialized head and neck experience. Our findings suggest that deep learning has utility in the identification of ENE in patients with HNSCC and has the potential to be integrated into clinical decision making.

Kann Benjamin H, Hicks Daniel F, Payabvash Sam, Mahajan Amit, Du Justin, Gupta Vishal, Park Henry S, Yu James B, Yarbrough Wendell G, Burtness Barbara A, Husain Zain A, Aneja Sanjay