Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is a highly lethal cancer in which the tumor-vascular involvement greatly affects the resectability and, thus, overall survival of patients. However, current prognostic prediction methods fail to explicitly and accurately investigate relationships between the tumor and nearby important vessels. This paper proposes a novel learnable neural distance that describes the precise relationship between the tumor and vessels in CT images of different patients, adopting it as a major feature for prognosis prediction. Besides, different from existing models that used CNNs or LSTMs to exploit tumor enhancement patterns on dynamic contrast-enhanced CT imaging, we improved the extraction of dynamic tumor-related texture features in multi-phase contrast-enhanced CT by fusing local and global features using CNN and transformer modules, further enhancing the features extracted across multi-phase CT images. We extensively evaluated and compared the proposed method with existing methods in the multi-center (n=4) dataset with 1,070 patients with PDAC, and statistical analysis confirmed its clinical effectiveness in the external test set consisting of three centers. The developed risk marker was the strongest predictor of overall survival among preoperative factors and it has the potential to be combined with established clinical factors to select patients at higher risk who might benefit from neoadjuvant therapy.
Liver tumor segmentation and classification are important tasks in computer aided diagnosis. We aim to address three problems: liver tumor screening and preliminary diagnosis in non-contrast computed tomography (CT), and differential diagnosis in dynamic contrast-enhanced CT. A novel framework named Pixel-Lesion-pAtient Network (PLAN) is proposed. It uses a mask transformer to jointly segment and classify each lesion with improved anchor queries and a foreground-enhanced sampling loss. It also has an image-wise classifier to effectively aggregate global information and predict patient-level diagnosis. A large-scale multi-phase dataset is collected containing 939 tumor patients and 810 normal subjects. 4010 tumor instances of eight types are extensively annotated. On the non-contrast tumor screening task, PLAN achieves 95% and 96% in patient-level sensitivity and specificity. On contrast-enhanced CT, our lesion-level detection precision, recall, and classification accuracy are 92%, 89%, and 86%, outperforming widely used CNN and transformers for lesion segmentation. We also conduct a reader study on a holdout set of 250 cases. PLAN is on par with a senior human radiologist, showing the clinical significance of our results.
Gastric cancer is the third leading cause of cancer-related mortality worldwide, but no guideline-recommended screening test exists. Existing methods can be invasive, expensive, and lack sensitivity to identify early-stage gastric cancer. In this study, we explore the feasibility of using a deep learning approach on non-contrast CT scans for gastric cancer detection. We propose a novel cluster-induced Mask Transformer that jointly segments the tumor and classifies abnormality in a multi-task manner. Our model incorporates learnable clusters that encode the texture and shape prototypes of gastric cancer, utilizing self- and cross-attention to interact with convolutional features. In our experiments, the proposed method achieves a sensitivity of 85.0% and specificity of 92.6% for detecting gastric tumors on a hold-out test set consisting of 100 patients with cancer and 148 normal. In comparison, two radiologists have an average sensitivity of 73.5% and specificity of 84.3%. We also obtain a specificity of 97.7% on an external test set with 903 normal cases. Our approach performs comparably to established state-of-the-art gastric cancer screening tools like blood testing and endoscopy, while also being more sensitive in detecting early-stage cancer. This demonstrates the potential of our approach as a novel, non-invasive, low-cost, and accurate method for opportunistic gastric cancer screening.
Real-world medical image segmentation has tremendous long-tailed complexity of objects, among which tail conditions correlate with relatively rare diseases and are clinically significant. A trustworthy medical AI algorithm should demonstrate its effectiveness on tail conditions to avoid clinically dangerous damage in these out-of-distribution (OOD) cases. In this paper, we adopt the concept of object queries in Mask Transformers to formulate semantic segmentation as a soft cluster assignment. The queries fit the feature-level cluster centers of inliers during training. Therefore, when performing inference on a medical image in real-world scenarios, the similarity between pixels and the queries detects and localizes OOD regions. We term this OOD localization as MaxQuery. Furthermore, the foregrounds of real-world medical images, whether OOD objects or inliers, are lesions. The difference between them is less than that between the foreground and background, possibly misleading the object queries to focus redundantly on the background. Thus, we propose a query-distribution (QD) loss to enforce clear boundaries between segmentation targets and other regions at the query level, improving the inlier segmentation and OOD indication. Our proposed framework is tested on two real-world segmentation tasks, i.e., segmentation of pancreatic and liver tumors, outperforming previous state-of-the-art algorithms by an average of 7.39% on AUROC, 14.69% on AUPR, and 13.79% on FPR95 for OOD localization. On the other hand, our framework improves the performance of inlier segmentation by an average of 5.27% DSC when compared with the leading baseline nnUNet.
Pancreatic cancer is one of the leading causes of cancer-related death. Accurate detection, segmentation, and differential diagnosis of the full taxonomy of pancreatic lesions, i.e., normal, seven major types of lesions, and other lesions, is critical to aid the clinical decision-making of patient management and treatment. However, existing works focus on segmentation and classification for very specific lesion types (PDAC) or groups. Moreover, none of the previous work considers using lesion prevalence-related non-imaging patient information to assist the differential diagnosis. To this end, we develop a meta-information-aware dual-path transformer and exploit the feasibility of classification and segmentation of the full taxonomy of pancreatic lesions. Specifically, the proposed method consists of a CNN-based segmentation path (S-path) and a transformer-based classification path (C-path). The S-path focuses on initial feature extraction by semantic segmentation using a UNet-based network. The C-path utilizes both the extracted features and meta-information for patient-level classification based on stacks of dual-path transformer blocks that enhance the modeling of global contextual information. A large-scale multi-phase CT dataset of 3,096 patients with pathology-confirmed pancreatic lesion class labels, voxel-wise manual annotations of lesions from radiologists, and patient meta-information, was collected for training and evaluations. Our results show that our method can enable accurate classification and segmentation of the full taxonomy of pancreatic lesions, approaching the accuracy of the radiologist's report and significantly outperforming previous baselines. Results also show that adding the common meta-information, i.e., gender and age, can boost the model's performance, thus demonstrating the importance of meta-information for aiding pancreatic disease diagnosis.
Human readers or radiologists routinely perform full-body multi-organ multi-disease detection and diagnosis in clinical practice, while most medical AI systems are built to focus on single organs with a narrow list of a few diseases. This might severely limit AI's clinical adoption. A certain number of AI models need to be assembled non-trivially to match the diagnostic process of a human reading a CT scan. In this paper, we construct a Unified Tumor Transformer (UniT) model to detect (tumor existence and location) and diagnose (tumor characteristics) eight major cancer-prevalent organs in CT scans. UniT is a query-based Mask Transformer model with the output of multi-organ and multi-tumor semantic segmentation. We decouple the object queries into organ queries, detection queries and diagnosis queries, and further establish hierarchical relationships among the three groups. This clinically-inspired architecture effectively assists inter- and intra-organ representation learning of tumors and facilitates the resolution of these complex, anatomically related multi-organ cancer image reading tasks. UniT is trained end-to-end using a curated large-scale CT images of 10,042 patients including eight major types of cancers and occurring non-cancer tumors (all are pathology-confirmed with 3D tumor masks annotated by radiologists). On the test set of 631 patients, UniT has demonstrated strong performance under a set of clinically relevant evaluation metrics, substantially outperforming both multi-organ segmentation methods and an assembly of eight single-organ expert models in tumor detection, segmentation, and diagnosis. Such a unified multi-cancer image reading model (UniT) can significantly reduce the number of false positives produced by combined multi-system models. This moves one step closer towards a universal high-performance cancer screening tool.
Federated learning is an emerging research paradigm enabling collaborative training of machine learning models among different organizations while keeping data private at each institution. Despite recent progress, there remain fundamental challenges such as lack of convergence and potential for catastrophic forgetting in federated learning across real-world heterogeneous devices. In this paper, we demonstrate that attention-based architectures (e.g., Transformers) are fairly robust to distribution shifts and hence improve federated learning over heterogeneous data. Concretely, we conduct the first rigorous empirical investigation of different neural architectures across a range of federated algorithms, real-world benchmarks, and heterogeneous data splits. Our experiments show that simply replacing convolutional networks with Transformers can greatly reduce catastrophic forgetting of previous devices, accelerate convergence, and reach a better global model, especially when dealing with heterogeneous data. We will release our code and pretrained models at https://github.com/Liangqiong/ViT-FL-main to encourage future exploration in robust architectures as an alternative to current research efforts on the optimization front.
International challenges have become the de facto standard for comparative assessment of image analysis algorithms given a specific task. Segmentation is so far the most widely investigated medical image processing task, but the various segmentation challenges have typically been organized in isolation, such that algorithm development was driven by the need to tackle a single specific clinical problem. We hypothesized that a method capable of performing well on multiple tasks will generalize well to a previously unseen task and potentially outperform a custom-designed solution. To investigate the hypothesis, we organized the Medical Segmentation Decathlon (MSD) - a biomedical image analysis challenge, in which algorithms compete in a multitude of both tasks and modalities. The underlying data set was designed to explore the axis of difficulties typically encountered when dealing with medical images, such as small data sets, unbalanced labels, multi-site data and small objects. The MSD challenge confirmed that algorithms with a consistent good performance on a set of tasks preserved their good average performance on a different set of previously unseen tasks. Moreover, by monitoring the MSD winner for two years, we found that this algorithm continued generalizing well to a wide range of other clinical problems, further confirming our hypothesis. Three main conclusions can be drawn from this study: (1) state-of-the-art image segmentation algorithms are mature, accurate, and generalize well when retrained on unseen tasks; (2) consistent algorithmic performance across multiple tasks is a strong surrogate of algorithmic generalizability; (3) the training of accurate AI segmentation models is now commoditized to non AI experts.
Recently, there emerges a series of vision Transformers, which show superior performance with a more compact model size than conventional convolutional neural networks, thanks to the strong ability of Transformers to model long-range dependencies. However, the advantages of vision Transformers also come with a price: Self-attention, the core part of Transformer, has a quadratic complexity to the input sequence length. This leads to a dramatic increase of computation and memory cost with the increase of sequence length, thus introducing difficulties when applying Transformers to the vision tasks that require dense predictions based on high-resolution feature maps. In this paper, we propose a new vision Transformer, named Glance-and-Gaze Transformer (GG-Transformer), to address the aforementioned issues. It is motivated by the Glance and Gaze behavior of human beings when recognizing objects in natural scenes, with the ability to efficiently model both long-range dependencies and local context. In GG-Transformer, the Glance and Gaze behavior is realized by two parallel branches: The Glance branch is achieved by performing self-attention on the adaptively-dilated partitions of the input, which leads to a linear complexity while still enjoying a global receptive field; The Gaze branch is implemented by a simple depth-wise convolutional layer, which compensates local image context to the features obtained by the Glance mechanism. We empirically demonstrate our method achieves consistently superior performance over previous state-of-the-art Transformers on various vision tasks and benchmarks. The codes and models will be made available at https://github.com/yucornetto/GG-Transformer.