Auto-detection and segmentation of involved lymph nodes in HPV-associated oropharyngeal cancer using a convolutional deep learning neural network

Nicolette Taku, Kareem A. Wahid, Lisanne V. van Dijk, Jaakko Sahlsten, Joel Jaskari, Kimmo Kaski, Clifton D. Fuller, Mohamed A. Naser*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)
36 Downloads (Pure)


Purpose: Segmentation of involved lymph nodes on head and neck computed tomography (HN-CT) scans is necessary for the radiotherapy planning of early-stage human papilloma virus (HPV) associated oropharynx cancers (OPC). We aimed to train a deep learning convolutional neural network (DL-CNN) to segment involved lymph nodes on HN-CT scans. Methods: Ground-truth segmentation of involved nodes was performed on pre-surgical HN-CT scans for 90 patients who underwent levels II-IV neck dissection for node-positive HPV-OPC (training/validation [n = 70] and testing [n = 20]). A 5-fold cross validation approach was used to train 5 DL-CNN sub-models based on a residual U-net architecture. Validation and testing segmentation masks were compared to ground-truth masks using predetermined metrics. A lymph auto-detection model to discriminate between “node-positive” and “node-negative” HN-CT scans was developed by thresholding segmentation model outputs and evaluated using the area under the receiver operating characteristic curve (AUC). Results: In the DL-CNN validation phase, all sub-models yielded segmentation masks with median Dice ≥ 0.90 and median volume similarity score of ≥ 0.95. In the testing phase, the DL-CNN produced consensus segmentation masks with median Dice of 0.92 (IQR, 0.89–0.95), median volume similarity of 0.97 (IQR, 0.94–0.99), and median Hausdorff distance of 4.52 mm (IQR, 1.22–8.38). The detection model achieved an AUC of 0.98. Conclusion: The results from this single-institution study demonstrate the successful automation of lymph node segmentation for patients with HPV-OPC using a DL-CNN. Future studies, including validation with an external dataset, are necessary to clarify its role in the larger radiation oncology treatment planning workflow.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)47-55
Number of pages9
JournalClinical and Translational Radiation Oncology
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2022
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


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