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Discrimination of Tumor Texture Based on MRI Radiomic Features: Is There a Volume Threshold? A Phantom Study

Santinha, J. ; Bianchini, L. ; Figueiredo, M. A. T. ; Matos, C. ; Lascialfari, A. ; Papanikolaou, N. ; Cremonesi, M. ; Jereczek-Fossa, B. ; Botta, F. ; Origgi, D.

Applied Sciences (Switzerland) Vol. 12, Nº 11, pp. 5465 - 5465, May, 2022.

ISSN (print): 2076-3417
ISSN (online):

Scimago Journal Ranking: 0,51 (in 2021)

Digital Object Identifier: 10.3390/app12115465

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Radiomics is emerging as a promising tool to extract quantitative biomarkers—called radiomic features—from medical images, potentially contributing to the improvement in diagnosis and treatment of oncological patients. However, technical limitations might impair the reliability of radiomic features and their ability to quantify clinically relevant tissue properties. Among these, sampling the image signal in a too-small region can reduce the ability to discriminate tissues with different properties. However, a volume threshold guaranteeing a reliable analysis, which might vary according to the imaging modality and clinical scenario, has not been assessed yet. In this study, an MRI phantom specifically developed for radiomic investigation of gynecological malignancies was used to explore how the ability of radiomic features to discriminate different image textures varies with the volume of the analyzed region. The phantom, embedding inserts with different textures, was scanned on two 1.5T and one 3T scanners, each using the T2-weighted sequence of the clinical protocol implemented for gynecological studies. Within each of the three inserts, six cylindrical regions were drawn with volumes ranging from 0.8 cm3 to 29.8 cm3, and 944 radiomic features were extracted from both original images and from images processed with different filters. For each scanner, the ability of each feature to discriminate the different textures was quantified. Despite differences observed among the scanner models, the overall percentage of discriminative features across scanners was >70%, with the smallest volume having the lowest percentage of discriminative features for all scanners. Stratification by feature class, still aggregating data for original and filtered images, showed statistical significance for the association between the percentage of discriminative features with VOI sizes for features classes GLCM, GLDM, and GLSZM on the first 1.5T scanner and for first-order and GLSZM classes on the second 1.5T scanner. Poorer results in terms of features’ discriminative ability were found for the 3T scanner. Focusing on original images only, the analysis of discriminative features stratified by feature class showed that the first-order and GLCM were robust to VOI size variations (>85% discriminative features for all sizes), while for the 1.5T scanners, the GLSZM and NGTDM feature classes showed a percentage of discriminative features >80% only for volumes no smaller than 3.3 cm3, and equal or larger than 7.4 cm3 for the GLRLM. As for the 3T scanner, only the GLSZM showed a percentage of discriminative features >80% for all volume sizes above 3.3 cm3. Analogous considerations were obtained for each filter, providing useful indications for feature selection in this clinical case. Similar studies should be replicated with suitably adapted phantoms to derive useful data for other clinical scenarios and imaging modalities.