Purpose: To develop an intratumor partitioning framework for identifying high-risk subregions from (18)F-fluorodeoxyglucose positron emission tomography (FDG-PET) and computed tomography (CT) imaging and to test whether tumor burden associated with the high-risk subregions is prognostic of outcomes in lung cancer.
Methods and materials: In this institutional review board-approved retrospective study, we analyzed the pretreatment FDG-PET and CT scans of 44 lung cancer patients treated with radiation therapy. A novel, intratumor partitioning method was developed, based on a 2-stage clustering process: first at the patient level, each tumor was over-segmented into many superpixels by k-means clustering of integrated PET and CT images; next, tumor subregions were identified by merging previously defined superpixels via population-level hierarchical clustering. The volume associated with each of the subregions was evaluated using Kaplan-Meier analysis regarding its prognostic capability in predicting overall survival (OS) and out-of-field progression (OFP).
Results: Three spatially distinct subregions were identified within each tumor that were highly robust to uncertainty in PET/CT co-registration. Among these, the volume of the most metabolically active and metabolically heterogeneous solid component of the tumor was predictive of OS and OFP on the entire cohort, with a concordance index or CI of 0.66-0.67. When restricting the analysis to patients with stage III disease (n=32), the same subregion achieved an even higher CI of 0.75 (hazard ratio 3.93, log-rank P=.002) for predicting OS, and a CI of 0.76 (hazard ratio 4.84, log-rank P=.002) for predicting OFP. In comparison, conventional imaging markers, including tumor volume, maximum standardized uptake value, and metabolic tumor volume using threshold of 50% standardized uptake value maximum, were not predictive of OS or OFP, with CI mostly below 0.60 (log-rank P>.05).
Conclusion: We propose a robust intratumor partitioning method to identify clinically relevant, high-risk subregions in lung cancer. We envision that this approach will be applicable to identifying useful imaging biomarkers in many cancer types.
Copyright © 2016 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.