Purpose: A number of recent publications have proposed that a family of image-derived indices, called texture features, can predict clinical outcome in patients with cancer. However, the investigation of multiple indices on a single data set can lead to significant inflation of type-I errors. We report a systematic review of the type-I error inflation in such studies and review the evidence regarding associations between patient outcome and texture features derived from positron emission tomography (PET) or computed tomography (CT) images.
Methods: For study identification PubMed and Scopus were searched (1/2000-9/2013) using combinations of the keywords texture, prognostic, predictive and cancer. Studies were divided into three categories according to the sources of the type-I error inflation and the use or not of an independent validation dataset. For each study, the true type-I error probability and the adjusted level of significance were estimated using the optimum cut-off approach correction, and the Benjamini-Hochberg method. To demonstrate explicitly the variable selection bias in these studies, we re-analyzed data from one of the published studies, but using 100 random variables substituted for the original image-derived indices. The significance of the random variables as potential predictors of outcome was examined using the analysis methods used in the identified studies.
Results: Fifteen studies were identified. After applying appropriate statistical corrections, an average type-I error probability of 76% (range: 34-99%) was estimated with the majority of published results not reaching statistical significance. Only 3/15 studies used a validation dataset. For the 100 random variables examined, 10% proved to be significant predictors of survival when subjected to ROC and multiple hypothesis testing analysis.
Conclusions: We found insufficient evidence to support a relationship between PET or CT texture features and patient survival. Further fit for purpose validation of these image-derived biomarkers should be supported by appropriate biological and statistical evidence before their association with patient outcome is investigated in prospective studies.