Standardizing and improving dose predictions for head and neck cancers using complete sets of OAR contours

Jacob S. Buatti, Neil Kirby, Sotirios Stathakis, Ruiqi Li, Sruthi Sivabhaskar, Michelle de Oliveira, Kristen Duke, Christopher N. Kabat, Niko Papanikolaou, Nikos Paragios

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Radiotherapy dose predictions have been trained with data from previously treated patients of similar sites and prescriptions. However, clinical datasets are often inconsistent and do not contain the same number of organ at risk (OAR) structures. The effects of missing contour data in deep learning-based dose prediction models have not been studied. Purpose: The purpose of this study was to investigate the impacts of incomplete contour sets in the context of deep learning-based radiotherapy dose prediction models trained with clinical datasets and to introduce a novel data substitution method that utilizes automated contours for undefined structures. Methods: We trained Standard U-Nets and Cascade U-Nets to predict the volumetric dose distributions of patients with head and neck cancers (HNC) using three input variations to evaluate the effects of missing contours, as well as a novel data substitution method. Each architecture was trained with the original contour (OC) inputs, which included missing information, hybrid contour (HC) inputs, where automated OAR contours generated in software were substituted for missing contour data, and automated contour (AC) inputs containing only automated OAR contours. 120 HNC treatments were used for model training, 30 were used for validation and tuning, and 44 were used for evaluation and testing. Model performance and accuracy were evaluated with global whole body dose agreement, PTV coverage accuracy, and OAR dose agreement. The differences in these values between dataset variations were used to determine the effects of missing data and automated contour substitutions. Results: Automated contours used as substitutions for missing data were found to improve dose prediction accuracy in the Standard U-Net and Cascade U-Net, with a statistically significant difference in some global metrics and/or OAR metrics. For both models, PTV coverage between input variations was unaffected by the substitution technique. Automated contours in HC and AC datasets improved mean dose accuracy for some OAR contours, including the mandible and brainstem, with a greater improvement seen with HC datasets. Global dose metrics, including mean absolute error, mean error, and percent error were different for the Standard U-Net but not for the Cascade U-Net. Conclusion: Automated contours used as a substitution for contour data improved prediction accuracy for some but not all dose prediction metrics. Compared to the Standard U-Net models, the Cascade U-Net achieved greater precision.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)898-909
Number of pages12
JournalMedical physics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2024
Externally publishedYes


  • data substitutions
  • dose prediction
  • head and neck radiotherapy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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