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In Cancer management and research

Background or Purpose : It is important to predict nodal metastases in patients with early esophageal cancer to stratify patients for endoscopic resection or esophagectomy. This study was to establish a novel artificial neural network (ANN) and assess its ability by comparing it with a traditional logistic regression (LR) model for predicting lymph node (LN) metastasis in patients with superficial esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (SESCC).

Methods : A primary cohort was established, composed of 733 patients who underwent esophagectomy for SESCC from December 2012 to December 2019. The following steps were applied: (i) predictor selection; (ii) development of an ANN and a LR model, respectively; (iii) cross-validation; and (iv) evaluation of performance between the two models. The diagnostic assessment was performed with sensitivity, specificity, positive predictive value (PPV), negative predictive value (NPV), accuracy, C-index, net reclassification improvement (NRI), and integrated discrimination improvement (IDI).

Results : The established ANN model had 6 significant predictors: a past habit of alcohol taking, tumor size, submucosal invasion, histologic grade, lymph-vessel invasion, and preoperative CT result. The ANN model performed better than the LR model in specificity (91.20% vs 72.59%, p=0.006), PPV (56.49% vs 39.78%, p=0.020), accuracy (90.72% vs 74.49%, p<0.0001), C-index (91.5% vs 86.8%, p<0.001), and IDI (improved by 23.3%, p<0.001). There were no differences between these two models in sensitivity (87.06% vs 83.21%, p=0.764), NPV (98.17% vs 95.21%, p=0.627), and NRI (improved by -1.1%, p=0.824).

Conclusion : This ANN model is superior to the LR model and may become a valuable tool for the prediction of LN metastasis in patients with SESCC.

Chen Han, Zhou Xiaoying, Tang Xinyu, Li Shuo, Zhang Guoxin


lymph node metastasis, machine learning, neural network, superficial esophageal squamous cell carcinoma