Quantitative nuclear histomorphometric features are predictive of Oncotype DX risk categories in ductal carcinoma in situ: Preliminary findings

Haojia Li, Jon Whitney, Kaustav Bera, Hannah Gilmore, Mangesh A. Thorat, Sunil Badve, Anant Madabhushi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Background: Oncotype DX (ODx) is a 12-gene assay assessing the recurrence risk (high, intermediate, and low) of ductal carcinoma in situ (pre-invasive breast cancer), which guides clinicians regarding prescription of radiotherapy. However, ODx is expensive, time-consuming, and tissue-destructive. In addition, the actual prognostic meaning for the intermediate ODx risk category remains unclear. Methods: In this work, we evaluated the ability of quantitative nuclear histomorphometric features extracted from hematoxylin and eosin-stained slide images of 62 ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) patients to distinguish between the corresponding ODx risk categories. The prognostic value of the identified image signature was further evaluated on an independent validation set of 30 DCIS patients in its ability to distinguish those DCIS patients who progressed to invasive carcinoma versus those who did not. Following nuclear segmentation and feature extraction, feature ranking strategies were employed to identify the most discriminating features between individual ODx risk categories. The selected features were then combined with machine learning classifiers to establish models to predict ODx risk categories. The model performance was evaluated using the average area under the receiver operating characteristic curve (AUC) using cross validation. In addition, an unsupervised clustering approach was also implemented to evaluate the ability of nuclear histomorphometric features to discriminate between the ODx risk categories. Results: Features relating to spatial distribution, orientation disorder, and texture of nuclei were identified as most discriminating between the high ODx and the intermediate, low ODx risk categories. Additionally, the AUC of the most discriminating set of features for the different classification tasks was as follows: (1) high vs low ODx (0.68), (2) high vs. intermediate ODx (0.67), (3) intermediate vs. low ODx (0.57), (4) high and intermediate vs. low ODx (0.63), (5) high vs. low and intermediate ODx (0.66). Additionally, the unsupervised clustering resulted in intermediate ODx risk category patients being co-clustered with low ODx patients compared to high ODx. Conclusion: Our results appear to suggest that nuclear histomorphometric features can distinguish high from low and intermediate ODx risk category patients. Additionally, our findings suggest that histomorphometric features for intermediate ODx were more similar to low ODx compared to high ODx risk category.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number114
JournalBreast Cancer Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Oct 17 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Ductal carcinoma in situ
  • Nucleus
  • Oncotype DX
  • Quantitative histomorphometry

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research

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