Purpose: Some patients with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) are more likely to experience disease progression despite transcatheter arterial chemoembolization (TACE) treatment, and thus would benefit from early switching to other therapeutic regimens. We sought to evaluate a fully automated machine learning algorithm that uses pre-therapeutic quantitative computed tomography (CT) image features and clinical factors to predict HCC response to TACE.
Materials and methods: Outcome information from 105 patients receiving first-line treatment with TACE was evaluated retrospectively. The primary clinical endpoint was time to progression (TTP) based on follow-up CT radiological criteria (mRECIST). A 14-week cutoff was used to classify patients as TACE-susceptible (TTP ≥14 weeks) or TACE-refractory (TTP <14 weeks). Response to TACE was predicted using a random forest classifier with the Barcelona Clinic Liver Cancer (BCLC) stage and quantitative image features as input as well as the BCLC stage alone as a control.
Results: The model's response prediction accuracy rate was 74.2% (95% CI=64%-82%) using a combination of the BCLC stage plus quantitative image features versus 62.9% (95% CI= 52%-72%) using the BCLC stage alone. Shape image features of the tumor and background liver were the dominant features correlated to the TTP as selected by the Boruta method and were used to predict the outcome.
Conclusion: This preliminary study demonstrates that quantitative image features obtained prior to therapy can improve the accuracy of predicting response of HCC to TACE. This approach is likely to provide useful information for aiding HCC patient selection for TACE.