Using computer-extracted image phenotypes from tumors on breast magnetic resonance imaging to predict breast cancer pathologic stage

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The objective of this study was to demonstrate that computer-extracted image phenotypes (CEIPs) of biopsy-proven breast cancer on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can accurately predict pathologic stage.


The authors used a data set of deidentified breast MRIs organized by the National Cancer Institute in The Cancer Imaging Archive. In total, 91 biopsy-proven breast cancers were analyzed from patients who had information available on pathologic stage (stage I, n = 22; stage II, n = 58; stage III, n = 11) and surgically verified lymph node status (negative lymph nodes, n = 46; ≥ 1 positive lymph node, n = 44; no lymph nodes examined, n = 1). Tumors were characterized according to 1) radiologist-measured size and 2) CEIP. Then, models were built that combined 2 CEIPs to predict tumor pathologic stage and lymph node involvement, and the models were evaluated in a leave-1-out, cross-validation analysis with the area under the receiver operating characteristic curve (AUC) as the value of interest.


Tumor size was the most powerful predictor of pathologic stage, but CEIPs that captured biologic behavior also emerged as predictive (eg, stage I and II vs stage III demonstrated an AUC of 0.83). No size measure was successful in the prediction of positive lymph nodes, but adding a CEIP that described tumor “homogeneity” significantly improved discrimination (AUC = 0.62; P = .003) compared with chance.


The current results indicate that MRI phenotypes have promise for predicting breast cancer pathologic stage and lymph node status.

Although tumor size measured on magnetic resonance imaging is the most powerful predictor of pathologic stage, image analysis algorithms may extract and combine features into a signature that augments this prediction. In fact, computer-extracted breast magnetic resonance imaging phenotypes appear to capture biologic information that can contribute to the prediction of breast cancer pathologic stage.

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