A support vector machine (SVM) for predicting preferred treatment position in radiotherapy of patients with breast cancer

Xuan Zhao, Edward K. Wong, Yao Wang, Stella Lymberis, Bixiu Wen, Silvia Formenti, Jenghwa Chang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: NYU 05-181 protocol compared the CT simulation in both supine and prone positions for 400 patients with breast cancer (200 left-breast and 200 right-breast) to identify which setup is better at sparing heart and lung involvement in the treatment process. The results demonstrated that all right-breast patients benefited from the prone treatment position, while for left-breast patients, 85% were better treated prone and 15% were better treated supine. Using the clinical data collected from this protocol, the authors aimed at developing an automated tool capable of identifying which of the left-breast cancer patients are better treated supine without obtaining a second CT scan in the supine position. Methods: Prone CT scans from 198 of the 200 left-breast cancer patients enrolled in NYU 05-181 protocol were deidentified and exported to a dedicated research planning workstation. Three-dimensional geometric features of the organs at risk and tumor bed were extracted. A two-stage classifier was used to classify patients into the prone class or the supine class. In the first stage, the authors use simple thresholding to divide the patients into two groups based on their in-field heart volume. For patients with in-field heart volume ≤ 0.1 cc, the prone position was chosen as the preferred treatment position. Patients with in-field heart volume >0.1 cc will be further classified in the second stage by a weighted support vector machine (SVM). The weight parameters of the SVM were adjusted to maximize the specificity [true-supine/ (true-supine+false-prone)] at the cost of lowering but still maintaining reasonable sensitivity [true-prone/ (true-prone+false-supine) ]. The authors used K -fold cross validations to test the performance of the SVM classifier. A feature selection algorithm was also used to identify features that give the best classification performance. Results: After the first stage, 49 of the 198 left-breast cancer patients were found to have >0.1 cc of in-field heart volume. The three geometric features of heart orientation,distance between heart and tumor, and in-field lung were selected by the feature selection algorithm in the second stage of the two-stage classifier to give the best predefined weighted accuracy. The overall sensitivity and specificity of the proposed method were found to be 90.4% and 99.3%, respectively. Using two-stage classification, the authors reduced the proportion of prone-treated patients that need a second supine CT scan down to 16.3/170 or 9.6%, as compared to 21/170 or 12.4% when the authors use only the first stage (thresholding) for classification. Conclusions: The authors' study showed that a feature-based classifier is feasible for predicting the preferred treatment position, based on features extracted from prone CT scans. The two-stage classifier achieved very high specificity at an acceptable expense of sensitivity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5341-5350
Number of pages10
JournalMedical Physics
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2010


  • breast radiotherapy
  • feature selection
  • prone vs supine
  • support vector machine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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