LG260: Assessing the scale of tumor heterogeneity by complete hierarchical segmentation of MRI

Friday, February 26, 2016 - 12:00
Greg Penzias
In many cancers, intratumoral heterogeneity has been found in histology,  genetic variation and vascular structure. We developed an algorithm to interrogate different scales of heterogeneity using clinical imaging. We hypothesize that heterogeneity of perfusion at coarse scale may correlate with treatment resistance and propensity for disease recurrence. The algorithm recursively segments the tumor image into increasingly smaller regions. Each dividing line is chosen so as to maximize signal intensity difference between the two regions. This process continues until the tumor has been divided into single voxels, resulting in segments at multiple scales. For each scale, heterogeneity is measured by comparing each segmented region to the adjacent region and calculating the difference in signal intensity histograms. Using digital phantom images, we showed that the algorithm is robust to image artifacts and various tumor shapes. We then measured the primary tumor scales of contrast enhancement heterogeneity in MRI of 18 rhabdomyosarcoma patients. Using Cox proportional hazards regression, we explored the influence of heterogeneity parameters on relapse-free survival. Coarser scale of maximum signal intensity heterogeneity was prognostic of shorter survival (p = 0.05). By contrast, two fractal parameters and three Haralick texture features were not prognostic. In summary, our algorithm produces a biologically motivated segmentation of tumor regions and reports the amount of heterogeneity at various distance scales. If validated on a larger dataset, this prognostic imaging biomarker could be useful to identify patients at higher risk for recurrence and candidates for alternative treatment.