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In Frontiers in medicine

Background and purpose : Although the latest breakthroughs in radiotherapy (RT) techniques have led to a decrease in adverse event rates, these techniques are still associated with substantial toxicity, including xerostomia. Imaging biomarkers could be useful to predict the toxicity risk related to each individual patient. Our preliminary work aims to develop a radiomic-based support tool exploiting pre-treatment CT images to predict late xerostomia risk in 3 months after RT in patients with oropharyngeal cancer (OPC).

Materials and methods : We performed a multicenter data collection. We enrolled 61 patients referred to three care centers in Apulia, Italy, out of which 22 patients experienced at least mild xerostomia 3 months after the end of the RT cycle. Pre-treatment CT images, clinical and dose features, and alcohol-smoking habits were collected. We proposed a transfer learning approach to extract quantitative imaging features from CT images by means of a pre-trained convolutional neural network (CNN) architecture. An optimal feature subset was then identified to train an SVM classifier. To evaluate the robustness of the proposed model with respect to different manual contouring practices on CTs, we repeated the same image analysis pipeline on "fake" parotid contours.

Results : The best performances were achieved by the model exploiting the radiomic features alone. On the independent test, the model reached median AUC, accuracy, sensitivity, and specificity values of 81.17, 83.33, 71.43, and 90.91%, respectively. The model was robust with respect to diverse manual parotid contouring procedures.

Conclusion : Radiomic analysis could help to develop a valid support tool for clinicians in planning radiotherapy treatment, by providing a risk score of the toxicity development for each individual patient, thus improving the quality of life of the same patient, without compromising patient care.

Fanizzi Annarita, Scognamillo Giovanni, Nestola Alessandra, Bambace Santa, Bove Samantha, Comes Maria Colomba, Cristofaro Cristian, Didonna Vittorio, Di Rito Alessia, Errico Angelo, Palermo Loredana, Tamborra Pasquale, Troiano Michele, Parisi Salvatore, Villani Rossella, Zito Alfredo, Lioce Marco, Massafra Raffaella


CNN–convolutional neural network, CT images, deep learning, oropharyngeal cancer, xerostomia