Quantifying the incremental value of deep learning: Application to lung nodule detection

PLoS One. 2020 Apr 14;15(4):e0231468. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0231468. eCollection 2020.


We present a case study for implementing a machine learning algorithm with an incremental value framework in the domain of lung cancer research. Machine learning methods have often been shown to be competitive with prediction models in some domains; however, implementation of these methods is in early development. Often these methods are only directly compared to existing methods; here we present a framework for assessing the value of a machine learning model by assessing the incremental value. We developed a machine learning model to identify and classify lung nodules and assessed the incremental value added to existing risk prediction models. Multiple external datasets were used for validation. We found that our image model, trained on a dataset from The Cancer Imaging Archive (TCIA), improves upon existing models that are restricted to patient characteristics, but it was inconclusive about whether it improves on models that consider nodule features. Another interesting finding is the variable performance on different datasets, suggesting population generalization with machine learning models may be more challenging than is often considered.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Databases, Factual
  • Deep Learning
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted / methods
  • Lung
  • Lung Neoplasms / classification*
  • Lung Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Machine Learning
  • Neural Networks, Computer
  • Precancerous Conditions
  • Radiographic Image Interpretation, Computer-Assisted / methods*
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed