Preclinical magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a critical component in a co-clinical research pipeline. Importantly, segmentation of tumors in MRI is a necessary step in tumor phenotyping and assessment of response to therapy. However, manual segmentation is time-intensive and suffers from inter-and intra-observer variability and lack of reproducibility. This study aimed to develop an automated pipeline for accurate localization and delineation of TNBC PDX tumors from preclinical T1w and T2w MR images using a deep learning (DL) algorithm and to assess the sensitivity of radiomic features to tumor boundaries. We tested five network architectures including U-Net, dense U-Net, Res-Net, recurrent residual UNet (R2UNet), and dense R2U-Net (D-R2UNet), which were compared against manual delineation by experts. To mitigate bias among multiple experts, the simultaneous truth and performance level estimation (STAPLE) algorithm was applied to create consensus maps. Performance metrics (F1-Score, recall, precision, and AUC) were used to assess the performance of the networks. Multi-contrast D-R2UNet performed best with F1-score = 0.948; however, all networks scored within 1–3% of each other. Radiomic features extracted from D-R2UNet were highly corelated to STAPLE-derived features with 67.13% of T1w and 53.15% of T2w exhibiting correlation ρ ≥ 0.9 (p ≤ 0.05). D-R2UNet-extracted features exhibited better reproducibility relative to STAPLE with 86.71% of T1w and 69.93% of T2w features found to be highly reproducible (CCC ≥ 0.9, p ≤ 0.05). Finally, 39.16% T1w and 13.9% T2w features were identified as insensitive to tumor boundary perturbations (Spearman correlation (−0.4 ≤ ρ ≤ 0.4). We developed a highly reproducible DL algorithm to circumvent manual segmentation of T1w and T2w MR images and identified sensitivity of radiomic features to tumor boundaries.
- Co-clinical imaging
- Deep learning
- Preclinical imaging
- Triple negative breast cancer