Predicting tumor recurrence on baseline MR imaging in patients with early-stage hepatocellular carcinoma using deep machine learning

Sci Rep. 2023 May 10;13(1):7579. doi: 10.1038/s41598-023-34439-7.


Tumor recurrence affects up to 70% of early-stage hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) patients, depending on treatment option. Deep learning algorithms allow in-depth exploration of imaging data to discover imaging features that may be predictive of recurrence. This study explored the use of convolutional neural networks (CNN) to predict HCC recurrence in patients with early-stage HCC from pre-treatment magnetic resonance (MR) images. This retrospective study included 120 patients with early-stage HCC. Pre-treatment MR images were fed into a machine learning pipeline (VGG16 and XGBoost) to predict recurrence within six different time frames (range 1-6 years). Model performance was evaluated with the area under the receiver operating characteristic curves (AUC-ROC). After prediction, the model's clinical relevance was evaluated using Kaplan-Meier analysis with recurrence-free survival (RFS) as the endpoint. Of 120 patients, 44 had disease recurrence after therapy. Six different models performed with AUC values between 0.71 to 0.85. In Kaplan-Meier analysis, five of six models obtained statistical significance when predicting RFS (log-rank p < 0.05). Our proof-of-concept study indicates that deep learning algorithms can be utilized to predict early-stage HCC recurrence. Successful identification of high-risk recurrence candidates may help optimize follow-up imaging and improve long-term outcomes post-treatment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular* / pathology
  • Humans
  • Liver Neoplasms* / pathology
  • Machine Learning
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / diagnostic imaging
  • Retrospective Studies