Early Detection of Lung Cancer in the NLST Dataset

medRxiv [Preprint]. 2023 Mar 2:2023.03.01.23286632. doi: 10.1101/2023.03.01.23286632.


Lung Cancer is the leading cause of cancer mortality in the U.S. The effectiveness of standard treatments, including surgery, chemotherapy or radiotherapy, depends on several factors like type and stage of cancer, with the survival rate being much worse for later cancer stages. The National Lung Screening Trial (NLST) established that patients screened using low-dose Computed Tomography (CT) had a 15 to 20 percent lower risk of dying from lung cancer than patients screened using chest X-rays. While CT excelled at detecting small early stage malignant nodules, a large proportion of patients (> 25%) screened positive and only a small fraction (< 10%) of these positive screens actually had or developed cancer in the subsequent years. We developed a model to distinguish between high and low risk patients among the positive screens, predicting the likelihood of having or developing lung cancer at the current time point or in subsequent years non-invasively, based on current and previous CT imaging data. However, most of the nodules in NLST are very small, and nodule segmentations or even precise locations are unavailable. Our model comprises two stages: the first stage is a neural network model trained on the Lung Image Database Consortium (LIDC-IDRI) cohort which detects nodules and assigns them malignancy scores. The second part of our model is a boosted tree which outputs a cancer probability for a patient based on the nodule information (location and malignancy score) predicted by the first stage. Our model, built on a subset of the NLST cohort (n = 1138) shows excellent performance, achieving an area under the receiver operating characteristics curve (ROC AUC) of 0.85 when predicting based on CT images from all three time points available in the NLST dataset.

Keywords: Lung cancer; NLST; deep learning; machine learning.

Publication types

  • Preprint