Lung nodule malignancy classification with associated pulmonary fibrosis using 3D attention-gated convolutional network with CT scans

Yucheng Liu, Hao Yun Hsu, Tiffany Lin, Boyu Peng, Anjali Saqi, Mary M. Salvatore, Sachin Jambawalikar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Chest Computed tomography (CT) scans detect lung nodules and assess pulmonary fibrosis. While pulmonary fibrosis indicates increased lung cancer risk, current clinical practice characterizes nodule risk of malignancy based on nodule size and smoking history; little consideration is given to the fibrotic microenvironment. Purpose: To evaluate the effect of incorporating fibrotic microenvironment into classifying malignancy of lung nodules in chest CT images using deep learning techniques. Materials and methods: We developed a visualizable 3D classification model trained with in-house CT dataset for the nodule malignancy classification task. Three slightly-modified datasets were created: (1) nodule alone (microenvironment removed); (2) nodule with surrounding lung microenvironment; and (3) nodule in microenvironment with semantic fibrosis metadata. For each of the models, tenfold cross-validation was performed. Results were evaluated using quantitative measures, such as accuracy, sensitivity, specificity, and area-under-curve (AUC), as well as qualitative assessments, such as attention maps and class activation maps (CAM). Results: The classification model trained with nodule alone achieved 75.61% accuracy, 50.00% sensitivity, 88.46% specificity, and 0.78 AUC; the model trained with nodule and microenvironment achieved 79.03% accuracy, 65.46% sensitivity, 85.86% specificity, and 0.84 AUC. The model trained with additional semantic fibrosis metadata achieved 80.84% accuracy, 74.67% sensitivity, 84.95% specificity, and 0.89 AUC. Our visual evaluation of attention maps and CAM suggested that both the nodules and the microenvironment contributed to the task. Conclusion: The nodule malignancy classification performance was found to be improving with microenvironment data. Further improvement was found when incorporating semantic fibrosis information.

Original languageEnglish
Article number51
JournalJournal of Translational Medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2024
Externally publishedYes


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