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Cancer. 1997 Feb 15;79(4):857-62.

Artificial neural networks improve the accuracy of cancer survival prediction.

Author information

1
Department of Medicine, New York Medical College, Valhalla 10595, USA.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

The TNM staging system originated as a response to the need for an accurate, consistent, universal cancer outcome prediction system. Since the TNM staging system was introduced in the 1950s, new prognostic factors have been identified and new methods for integrating prognostic factors have been developed. This study compares the prediction accuracy of the TNM staging system with that of artificial neural network statistical models.

METHODS:

For 5-year survival of patients with breast or colorectal carcinoma, the authors compared the TNM staging system's predictive accuracy with that of artificial neural networks (ANN). The area under the receiver operating characteristic curve, as applied to an independent validation data set, was the measure of accuracy.

RESULTS:

For the American College of Surgeons' Patient Care Evaluation (PCE) data set, using only the TNM variables (tumor size, number of positive regional lymph nodes, and distant metastasis), the artificial neural network's predictions of the 5-year survival of patients with breast carcinoma were significantly more accurate than those of the TNM staging system (TNM, 0.720; ANN, 0.770; P < 0.001). For the National Cancer Institute's Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results breast carcinoma data set, using only the TNM variables, the artificial neural network's predictions of 10-year survival were significantly more accurate than those of the TNM staging system (TNM, 0.692; ANN, 0.730; P < 0.01). For the PCE colorectal data set, using only the TNM variables, the artificial neural network's predictions of the 5-year survival of patients with colorectal carcinoma were significantly more accurate than those of the TNM staging system (TNM, 0.737; ANN, 0.815; P < 0.001). Adding commonly collected demographic and anatomic variables to the TNM variables further increased the accuracy of the artificial neural network's predictions of breast carcinoma survival (0.784) and colorectal carcinoma survival (0.869).

CONCLUSIONS:

Artificial neural networks are significantly more accurate than the TNM staging system when both use the TNM prognostic factors alone. New prognostic factors can be added to artificial neural networks to increase prognostic accuracy further. These results are robust across different data sets and cancer sites.

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