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Assessing the generalisability of radiomics features previously identified as predictive of radiation-induced sticky saliva and xerostomia.

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Berger, Thomas 
Noble, David J 
Yang, Zhuolin 
Shelley, Leila EA 
McMullan, Thomas 


BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: While core to the scientific approach, reproducibility of experimental results is challenging in radiomics studies. A recent publication identified radiomics features that are predictive of late irradiation-induced toxicity in head and neck cancer (HNC) patients. In this study, we assessed the generalisability of these findings. MATERIALS AND METHODS: The procedure described in the publication in question was applied to a cohort of 109 HNC patients treated with 50-70 Gy in 20-35 fractions using helical radiotherapy although there were inherent differences between the two patient populations and methodologies. On each slice of the planning CT with delineated parotid and submandibular glands, the imaging features that were previously identified as predictive of moderate-to-severe xerostomia and sticky saliva 12 months post radiotherapy (Xer12m and SS12m) were calculated. Specifically, Short Run Emphasis (SRE) and maximum CT intensity (maxHU) were evaluated for improvement in prediction of Xer12m and SS12m respectively, compared to models solely using baseline toxicity and mean dose to the salivary glands. RESULTS: None of the associations previously identified as statistically significant and involving radiomics features in univariate or multivariate models could be reproduced on our cohort. CONCLUSION: The discrepancies observed between the results of the two studies delineate limits to the generalisability of the previously reported findings. This may be explained by the differences in the approaches, in particular the imaging characteristics and subsequent methodological implementation. This highlights the importance of external validation, high quality reporting guidelines and standardisation protocols to ensure generalisability, replication and ultimately clinical implementation.



Head and neck cancer, Image analysis, Radiomics, Replication, Sticky saliva, Xerostomia

Journal Title

Phys Imaging Radiat Oncol

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Elsevier BV
Cancer Research UK (C20/A20917)
Cancer Research Uk (None)