Machine learning to predict curative multidisciplinary team treatment decisions in oesophageal cancer


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Background: Rising workflow pressures within the oesophageal cancer (OC) multidisciplinary team (MDT) can lead to variability in decision-making, and health inequality. Machine learning (ML) offers a potential automated data-driven approach to address inconsistency and standardize care. The aim of this experimental pilot study was to develop ML models able to predict curative OC MDT treatment decisions and determine the relative importance of underlying decision-critical variables.Methods: Retrospective complete-case analysis of oesophagectomy patients +/- neoadjuvant chemotherapy (NACT) or chemoradiotherapy (NACRT) between 2010 and 2020. Established ML algorithms (Multinomial Logistic regression (MLR), Random Forests (RF), Extreme Gradient Boosting (XGB)) and Decision Tree (DT) were used to train models predicting OC MDT treatment decisions: surgery (S), NACT + S or NACRT + S. Performance metrics included Area Under the Curve (AUC), Accuracy, Kappa, LogLoss, F1 and Precision -Recall AUC. Variable importance was calculated for each model.Results: We identified 399 cases with a male-to-female ratio of 3.6:1 and median age of 66.1yrs (range 32-83). MLR outperformed RF, XGB and DT across performance metrics (mean AUC of 0.793 [+/- 0.045] vs 0.757 [+/- 0.068], 0.740 [+/- 0.042], and 0.709 [+/- 0.021] respectively). Variable importance analysis identified age as a major factor in the decision to offer surgery alone or NACT + S across models (p < 0.05).Conclusions: ML techniques can use limited feature-sets to predict curative UGI MDT treatment decisions. Explainable Artificial Intelligence methods provide insight into decision-critical variables, highlighting underlying subconscious biases in cancer care decision-making. Such models may allow prioritization of caseload, improve efficiency, and offer data-driven decision-assistance to MDTs in the future.
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Key words
Artificial intelligence,Machine learning,Oesophageal cancer multidisciplinary team
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