Evaluation of Deep Learning to Augment Image-Guided Radiotherapy for Head and Neck and Prostate Cancers | Head and Neck Cancer | JAMA Network Open | JAMA Network
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    Original Investigation
    Health Informatics
    November 30, 2020

    Evaluation of Deep Learning to Augment Image-Guided Radiotherapy for Head and Neck and Prostate Cancers

    Author Affiliations
    • 1Health Intelligence, Microsoft Research, Cambridge, United Kingdom
    • 2Department of Oncology, Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, United Kingdom
    • 3now with Edinburgh Cancer Centre, Western General Hospital, Edinburgh, United Kingdom
    JAMA Netw Open. 2020;3(11):e2027426. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.27426
    Key Points

    Question  Can machine learning models achieve clinically acceptable accuracy in image segmentation tasks in radiotherapy planning and reduce overall contouring time?

    Findings  This quality improvement study was conducted on a set of 242 head and neck and 519 pelvic computed tomography scans acquired for radiotherapy planning at 8 distinct clinical sites with heterogeneous population groups and image acquisition settings. The proposed technology achieved levels of accuracy within interexpert variability; statistical agreement was observed for 13 of 15 structures while reducing the annotation time by a mean of 93% per scan.

    Meaning  The study findings highlight the opportunity for widespread adoption of autosegmentation models in radiotherapy workflows to reduce overall contouring and planning time.


    Importance  Personalized radiotherapy planning depends on high-quality delineation of target tumors and surrounding organs at risk (OARs). This process puts additional time burdens on oncologists and introduces variability among both experts and institutions.

    Objective  To explore clinically acceptable autocontouring solutions that can be integrated into existing workflows and used in different domains of radiotherapy.

    Design, Setting, and Participants  This quality improvement study used a multicenter imaging data set comprising 519 pelvic and 242 head and neck computed tomography (CT) scans from 8 distinct clinical sites and patients diagnosed either with prostate or head and neck cancer. The scans were acquired as part of treatment dose planning from patients who received intensity-modulated radiation therapy between October 2013 and February 2020. Fifteen different OARs were manually annotated by expert readers and radiation oncologists. The models were trained on a subset of the data set to automatically delineate OARs and evaluated on both internal and external data sets. Data analysis was conducted October 2019 to September 2020.

    Main Outcomes and Measures  The autocontouring solution was evaluated on external data sets, and its accuracy was quantified with volumetric agreement and surface distance measures. Models were benchmarked against expert annotations in an interobserver variability (IOV) study. Clinical utility was evaluated by measuring time spent on manual corrections and annotations from scratch.

    Results  A total of 519 participants’ (519 [100%] men; 390 [75%] aged 62-75 years) pelvic CT images and 242 participants’ (184 [76%] men; 194 [80%] aged 50-73 years) head and neck CT images were included. The models achieved levels of clinical accuracy within the bounds of expert IOV for 13 of 15 structures (eg, left femur, κ = 0.982; brainstem, κ = 0.806) and performed consistently well across both external and internal data sets (eg, mean [SD] Dice score for left femur, internal vs external data sets: 98.52% [0.50] vs 98.04% [1.02]; P = .04). The correction time of autogenerated contours on 10 head and neck and 10 prostate scans was measured as a mean of 4.98 (95% CI, 4.44-5.52) min/scan and 3.40 (95% CI, 1.60-5.20) min/scan, respectively, to ensure clinically accepted accuracy. Manual segmentation of the head and neck took a mean 86.75 (95% CI, 75.21-92.29) min/scan for an expert reader and 73.25 (95% CI, 68.68-77.82) min/scan for a radiation oncologist. The autogenerated contours represented a 93% reduction in time.

    Conclusions and Relevance  In this study, the models achieved levels of clinical accuracy within expert IOV while reducing manual contouring time and performing consistently well across previously unseen heterogeneous data sets. With the availability of open-source libraries and reliable performance, this creates significant opportunities for the transformation of radiation treatment planning.