This study aimed to explore the added value of viscoelasticity measured by magnetic resonance elastography (MRE) in the prediction of Ki-67 expression in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) using a deep learning combined radiomics (DLCR) model. This retrospective study included 108 histopathology-proven HCC patients (93 males; age, 59.6 ± 11.0 years) who underwent preoperative MRI and MR elastography. They were divided into training (n = 87; 61.0 ± 9.8 years) and testing (n = 21; 60.6 ± 10.1 years) cohorts. An independent validation cohort including 43 patients (60.1 ± 11.3 years) was included for testing. A DLCR model was proposed to predict the expression of Ki-67 with cMRI, including T2W, DW, and dynamic contrast enhancement (DCE) images as inputs. The images of the shear wave speed (c-map) and phase angle (φ-map) derived from MRE were also fed into the DLCR model. The Ki-67 expression was classified into low and high groups with a threshold of 20%. Both c and φ values were ranked within the top six features for Ki-67 prediction with random forest selection, which revealed the value of MRE-based viscosity for the assessment of tumor proliferation status in HCC. When comparing the six CNN models, Xception showed the best performance for classifying the Ki-67 expression, with an AUC of 0.80 ± 0.03 (CI: 0.79-0.81) and accuracy of 0.77 ± 0.04 (CI: 0.76-0.78) when cMRI were fed into the model. The model with all modalities (MRE, AFP, and cMRI) as inputs achieved the highest AUC of 0.90 ± 0.03 (CI: 0.89-0.91) in the validation cohort. The same finding was observed in the independent testing cohort, with an AUC of 0.83 ± 0.03 (CI: 0.82-0.84). The shear wave speed and phase angle improved the performance of the DLCR model significantly for Ki-67 prediction, suggesting that MRE-based c and φ-maps can serve as important parameters to assess the tumor proliferation status in HCC.
Keywords: Ki-67; conventional MRI (cMRI); deep learning combined radiomics (DLCR); hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC); magnetic resonance elastography (MRE).