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Cell graph neural networks enable the digital staging of tumor microenvironment and precise prediction of patient survival in gastric cancer

By Yanan Wang, Yuguang Wang, Changyuan Hu, Ming Li, Yanan Fan, Nina Otter, Ikuan Sam, Hongquan Gou, Yiqun Hu, Terry Kwok, John Zalcberg, Alex Boussioutas, Roger J Daly, Guido Montufar, Pietro Lio, Dakang Xu, Geoffrey I. Webb, Jiangning Song

Posted 10 Sep 2021
medRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2021.09.01.21262086

Gastric cancer is one of the deadliest cancers worldwide. Accurate prognosis is essential for effective clinical assessment and treatment. Spatial patterns in the tumor microenvironment (TME) are conceptually indicative of the staging and progression of gastric cancer patients. Using spatial patterns of the TME by integrating and transforming the multiplexed immunohistochemistry (mIHC) images as Cell-Graphs, we propose a novel graph neural network-based approach, termed Cell-Graph Signature or CGSignature, powered by artificial intelligence, for digital staging of TME and precise prediction of patient survival in gastric cancer. In this study, patient survival prediction is formulated as either a binary (short-term and long-term) or ternary (short-term, medium-term, and long-term) classification task. Extensive benchmarking experiments demonstrate that the CGSignature achieves outstanding model performance, with Area Under the Receiver-Operating Characteristic curve (AUROC) of 0.960{+/-}0.01, and 0.771{+/-}0.024 to 0.904{+/-}0.012 for the binary- and ternary-classification, respectively. Moreover, Kaplan-Meier survival analysis indicates that the digital-grade cancer staging produced by CGSignature provides a remarkable capability in discriminating both binary and ternary classes with statistical significance (p-value < 0.0001), significantly outperforming the AJCC 8th edition Tumor-Node-Metastasis staging system. Using Cell-Graphs extracted from mIHC images, CGSignature improves the assessment of the link between the TME spatial patterns and patient prognosis. Our study suggests the feasibility and benefits of such artificial intelligence-powered digital staging system in diagnostic pathology and precision oncology.

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