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In Computers in biology and medicine

BACKGROUND : The recent development of artificial intelligence (AI) technologies coupled with medical imaging data has gained considerable attention, and offers a non-invasive approach for cancer diagnosis and prognosis. In this context, improved breast cancer (BC) molecular characteristics assessment models are foreseen to enable personalized strategies with better clinical outcomes compared to existing screening strategies. And it is a promising approach to developing models for hormone receptors (HR) and subtypes of BC patients from dynamic contrast-enhanced magnetic resonance imaging (DCE-MRI) data.

METHODS : In this institutional review board-approved study, 174 BC patients with both DCE-MRI and RNA-seq data in the local database were analyzed. Slice images from tumor lesions and multi-scale peri-tumor regions were used as model inputs, and five representative pre-trained transfer learning (TF) networks, such as Inception-v3 and Xception, were employed to establish prediction models. A comprehensive analysis was performed using five-fold cross-validation to avoid overfitting, and accuracy (ACC) and area under the receiver operating characteristic curve (AUROC) to evaluate model performance.

RESULTS : Xception achieved the superior results when using solely tumor regions, with highest AUROCs of 0.844 (95% CI: [0.841, 0.847]) and 0.784 (95% CI: [0.781, 0.788]) for estrogen receptor (ER) and progesterone receptor (PR), respectively, and best ACC of 0.467 (95% CI: [0.462, 0.470]) for PAM50 subtypes. A significant improvement in the model performance was observed when images of the peri-tumor region were included, with optimal results achieved using images of the tumor and the 10 mm peri-tumor regions. Xception-based TF models performed most effectively in predicting ER and PR statuses, with the AUROCs were 0.942 (95% CI: [0.940, 0.944]) and 0.920 (95% CI: [0.917, 0.922]), respectively, whereas for PAM50 subtypes, the Inception-v3-based network yielded the highest ACC as 0.742 (95% CI: [0.738, 0.746]).

CONCLUSIONS : Transfer learning analysis based on DCE-MRI data of tumor and peri-tumor regions was helpful to the non-invasive assessment of molecular characteristics of BC.

Ming Wenlong, Li Fuyu, Zhu Yanhui, Bai Yunfei, Gu Wanjun, Liu Yun, Sun Xiao, Liu Xiaoan, Liu Hongde


Breast cancer, DCE-MRI, PAM50 subtypes, Peri-tumor tissue, Radiomics, Transfer learning