We propose a novel framework for determining radiomics feature robustness by considering the effects of both biological and noise signals. This framework is preliminarily tested in a study predicting the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) mutation status in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) patients. Pairs of CT images (baseline, 3-week post therapy) of 46 NSCLC patients with known EGFR mutation status were collected and a FDA-customized anthropomorphic thoracic phantom was scanned on two vendors’ scanners at four different tube currents. Delta radiomics features were extracted from the NSCLC patient CTs and reproducible, non-redundant, and informative features were identified. The feature value differences between EGFR mutant and EGFR wildtype patients were quantitatively measured as the biological signal. Similarly, radiomics features were extracted from the phantom CTs. A pairwise comparison between settings resulted in a feature value difference that was quantitatively measured as the noise signal. Biological signals were compared to noise signals at each setting to determine if the distributions were significantly different by two-sample t
-test, and thus robust. Four optimal features were selected to predict EGFR mutation status, Tumor-Mass, Sigmoid-Offset-Mean, Gabor-Energy and DWT-Energy, which quantified tumor mass, tumor-parenchyma density transition at boundary, line-like pattern inside tumor and intratumoral heterogeneity, respectively. The first three variables showed robustness across the majority of studied CT acquisition parameters. The textual feature DWT-Energy was less robust. The proposed framework was able to determine robustness of radiomics features at specific settings by comparing biological signal to noise signal. Identification of robust radiomics features may improve the generalizability of radiomics models in future studies.
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