Background and purpose: To explore the prognostic value of different radiologic extranodal extension (rENE) grades and their potential improvement for the 8th edition N category in nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC).
Materials and methods: From 2009 to 2013, a cohort of 1887 patients with NPC was retrospectively enrolled and randomized to the training (n = 955) and validation (n = 932) groups. rENE was categorized as follows: grade 0, nodes without rENE; grade 1, nodes with rENE infiltrating the surrounding fat only; grade 2, matted nodes; grade 3, nodes with rENE infiltrating adjacent structures.
Results: The percentage of patients with MRI-positive cervical nodes was 66.5% (1254/1887), of whom grade 0, 1, 2 and 3 rENE cases accounted for 33.2% (416/1254), 14.9% (187/1254), 36.5% (458/1254) and 15.4% (193/1254), respectively. The kappa coefficients for the inter-rater and intra-rater assessments were 0.63, 0.51, 0.65 and 0.93, and 0.76, 0.69, 0.72 and 1.0 in grade 0, 1, 2 and 3 rENE, respectively. Grade 3 rENE rather than grades 0-2 rENE was an independent unfavorable predictor of overall survival and disease-free survival (P < 0.001). Recursive partitioning analysis was applied to refine the N category: eN0 (N0), eN1 (N1 without grade 3), eN2 (N2 without grade 3), and eN3 (N1/N2 with grade 3, N3). Compared to the current system, the proposed N category performed better in hazard consistency, hazard discrimination, sample size balance and outcome prediction.
Conclusion: Grade 3 rENE was an independent unfavorable indicator of NPC. Upstaging patients in N1-2 with grade 3 rENE to N3 led to a superior prognostic performance.
Keywords: Magnetic resonance imaging; Nasopharyngeal carcinoma; Prognostication; Radiologic extranodal extension; Recursive partitioning analysis.
Copyright © 2021 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.