Purpose: Clinical TNM staging is a key prognostic factor for patients with lung cancer and is used to inform treatment and monitoring. Computed tomography (CT) plays a central role in defining the stage of disease. Deep learning applied to pretreatment CTs may offer additional, individualized prognostic information to facilitate more precise mortality risk prediction and stratification.
Methods: We developed a fully automated imaging-based prognostication technique (IPRO) using deep learning to predict 1-year, 2-year, and 5-year mortality from pretreatment CTs of patients with stage I-IV lung cancer. Using six publicly available data sets from The Cancer Imaging Archive, we performed a retrospective five-fold cross-validation using pretreatment CTs of 1,689 patients, of whom 1,110 were diagnosed with non-small-cell lung cancer and had available TNM staging information. We compared the association of IPRO and TNM staging with patients' survival status and assessed an Ensemble risk score that combines IPRO and TNM staging. Finally, we evaluated IPRO's ability to stratify patients within TNM stages using hazard ratios (HRs) and Kaplan-Meier curves.
Results: IPRO showed similar prognostic power (concordance index [C-index] 1-year: 0.72, 2-year: 0.70, 5-year: 0.68) compared with that of TNM staging (C-index 1-year: 0.71, 2-year: 0.71, 5-year: 0.70) in predicting 1-year, 2-year, and 5-year mortality. The Ensemble risk score yielded superior performance across all time points (C-index 1-year: 0.77, 2-year: 0.77, 5-year: 0.76). IPRO stratified patients within TNM stages, discriminating between highest- and lowest-risk quintiles in stages I (HR: 8.60), II (HR: 5.03), III (HR: 3.18), and IV (HR: 1.91).
Conclusion: Deep learning applied to pretreatment CT combined with TNM staging enhances prognostication and risk stratification in patients with lung cancer.