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Longitudinal ultrasound-based AI model predicts axillary lymph node response to neoadjuvant chemotherapy in breast cancer: a multicenter study.

European Radiology 2024 May 11
OBJECTIVES: Developing a deep learning radiomics model from longitudinal breast ultrasound and sonographer's axillary ultrasound diagnosis for predicting axillary lymph node (ALN) response to neoadjuvant chemotherapy (NAC) in breast cancer.

METHODS: Breast cancer patients undergoing NAC followed by surgery were recruited from three centers between November 2016 and December 2022. We collected ultrasound images for extracting tumor-derived radiomics and deep learning features, selecting quantitative features through various methods. Two machine learning models based on random forest were developed using pre-NAC and post-NAC features. A support vector machine integrated these data into a fusion model, evaluated via the area under the curve (AUC), decision curve analysis, and calibration curves. We compared the fusion model's performance against sonographer's diagnosis from pre-NAC and post-NAC axillary ultrasonography, referencing histological outcomes from sentinel lymph node biopsy or axillary lymph node dissection.

RESULTS: In the validation cohort, the fusion model outperformed both pre-NAC (AUC: 0.899 vs. 0.786, p < 0.001) and post-NAC models (AUC: 0.899 vs. 0.853, p = 0.014), as well as the sonographer's diagnosis of ALN status on pre-NAC and post-NAC axillary ultrasonography (AUC: 0.899 vs. 0.719, p < 0.001). Decision curve analysis revealed patient benefits from the fusion model across threshold probabilities from 0.02 to 0.98. The model also enhanced sonographer's diagnostic ability, increasing accuracy from 71.9% to 79.2%.

CONCLUSION: The deep learning radiomics model accurately predicted the ALN response to NAC in breast cancer. Furthermore, the model will assist sonographers to improve their diagnostic ability on ALN status before surgery.

CLINICAL RELEVANCE STATEMENT: Our AI model based on pre- and post-neoadjuvant chemotherapy ultrasound can accurately predict axillary lymph node metastasis and assist sonographer's axillary diagnosis.

KEY POINTS: Axillary lymph node metastasis status affects the choice of surgical treatment, and currently relies on subjective ultrasound. Our AI model outperformed sonographer's visual diagnosis on axillary ultrasound. Our deep learning radiomics model can improve sonographers' diagnosis and might assist in surgical decision-making.

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