Background: Cancer typically exhibits genotypic and phenotypic heterogeneity, which can have prognostic significance and influence therapy response. Computed Tomography (CT)-based radiomic approaches calculate quantitative features of tumour heterogeneity at a mesoscopic level, regardless of macroscopic areas of hypo-dense (i.e., cystic/necrotic), hyper-dense (i.e., calcified), or intermediately dense (i.e., soft tissue) portions.
Method: With the goal of achieving the automated sub-segmentation of these three tissue types, we present here a two-stage computational framework based on unsupervised Fuzzy C-Means Clustering (FCM) techniques. No existing approach has specifically addressed this task so far. Our tissue-specific image sub-segmentation was tested on ovarian cancer (pelvic/ovarian and omental disease) and renal cell carcinoma CT datasets using both overlap-based and distance-based metrics for evaluation.
Results: On all tested sub-segmentation tasks, our two-stage segmentation approach outperformed conventional segmentation techniques: fixed multi-thresholding, the Otsu method, and automatic cluster number selection heuristics for the K-means clustering algorithm. In addition, experiments showed that the integration of the spatial information into the FCM algorithm generally achieves more accurate segmentation results, whilst the kernelised FCM versions are not beneficial. The best spatial FCM configuration achieved average Dice similarity coefficient values starting from 81.94±4.76 and 83.43±3.81 for hyper-dense and hypo-dense components, respectively, for the investigated sub-segmentation tasks.
Conclusions: The proposed intelligent framework could be readily integrated into clinical research environments and provides robust tools for future radiomic biomarker validation.
Keywords: Computed tomography; Ovarian cancer; Radiomics; Renal cell carcinoma; Tissue-specific segmentation; Unsupervised fuzzy clustering.
Copyright © 2020 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd.. All rights reserved.