Towards reliable head and neck cancers locoregional recurrence prediction using delta-radiomics and learning with rejection option

Kai Wang, Michael Dohopolski, Qiongwen Zhang, David Sher, Jing Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: A reliable locoregional recurrence (LRR) prediction model is important for the personalized management of head and neck cancers (HNC) patients who received radiotherapy. This work aims to develop a delta-radiomics feature-based multi-classifier, multi-objective, and multi-modality (Delta-mCOM) model for post-treatment HNC LRR prediction. Furthermore, we aim to adopt a learning with rejection option (LRO) strategy to boost the reliability of Delta-mCOM model by rejecting prediction for samples with high prediction uncertainties. Methods: In this retrospective study, we collected PET/CT image and clinical data from 224 HNC patients who received radiotherapy (RT) at our institution. We calculated the differences between radiomics features extracted from PET/CT images acquired before and after radiotherapy and used them in conjunction with pre-treatment radiomics features as the input features. Using clinical parameters, PET radiomics features, and CT radiomics features, we built and optimized three separate single-modality models. We used multiple classifiers for model construction and employed sensitivity and specificity simultaneously as the training objectives for each of them. Then, for testing samples, we fused the output probabilities from all these single-modality models to obtain the final output probabilities of the Delta-mCOM model. In the LRO strategy, we estimated the epistemic and aleatoric uncertainties when predicting with a trained Delta-mCOM model and identified patients associated with prediction of higher reliability (low uncertainty estimates). The epistemic and aleatoric uncertainties were estimated using an AutoEncoder-style anomaly detection model and test-time augmentation (TTA) with predictions made from the Delta-mCOM model, respectively. Predictions with higher epistemic uncertainty or higher aleatoric uncertainty than given thresholds were deemed unreliable, and they were rejected before providing a final prediction. In this study, different thresholds corresponding to different low-reliability prediction rejection ratios were applied. Their values are based on the estimated epistemic and aleatoric uncertainties distribution of the validation data. Results: The Delta-mCOM model performed significantly better than the single-modality models, whether trained with pre-, post-treatment radiomics features or concatenated BaseLine and Delta-Radiomics Features (BL-DRFs). It was numerically superior to the PET and CT fused BL-DRF model (nonstatistically significant). Using the LRO strategy for the Delta-mCOM model, most of the evaluation metrics improved as the rejection ratio increased from 0% to around 25%. Utilizing both epistemic and aleatoric uncertainty for rejection yielded nonstatistically significant improved metrics compared to each alone at approximately a 25% rejection ratio. Metrics were significantly better than the no-rejection method when the reject ratio was higher than 50%. Conclusions: The inclusion of the delta-radiomics feature improved the accuracy of HNC LRR prediction, and the proposed Delta-mCOM model can give more reliable predictions by rejecting predictions for samples of high uncertainty using the LRO strategy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalMedical physics
StateAccepted/In press - 2022


  • delta-radiomics
  • head and neck cancers
  • learning with rejection option
  • outcome prediction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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