DOI: 10.1007/s00259-017-3865-3Pages: 1-12

Tumour functional sphericity from PET images: prognostic value in NSCLC and impact of delineation method


2. CHU Milétrie, Department of Nuclear Medicine

Correspondence to:
Mathieu Hatt
Tel: +33(0)




Sphericity has been proposed as a parameter for characterizing PET tumour volumes, with complementary prognostic value with respect to SUV and volume in both head and neck cancer and lung cancer. The objective of the present study was to investigate its dependency on tumour delineation and the resulting impact on its prognostic value.


Five segmentation methods were considered: two thresholds (40% and 50% of SUVmax), ant colony optimization, fuzzy locally adaptive Bayesian (FLAB), and gradient-aided region-based active contour. The accuracy of each method in extracting sphericity was evaluated using a dataset of 176 simulated, phantom and clinical PET images of tumours with associated ground truth. The prognostic value of sphericity and its complementary value with respect to volume for each segmentation method was evaluated in a cohort of 87 patients with stage II/III lung cancer.


Volume and associated sphericity values were dependent on the segmentation method. The correlation between segmentation accuracy and sphericity error was moderate (|ρ| from 0.24 to 0.57). The accuracy in measuring sphericity was not dependent on volume (|ρ| < 0.4). In the patients with lung cancer, sphericity had prognostic value, although lower than that of volume, except for that derived using FLAB for which when combined with volume showed a small improvement over volume alone (hazard ratio 2.67, compared with 2.5). Substantial differences in patient prognosis stratification were observed depending on the segmentation method used.


Tumour functional sphericity was found to be dependent on the segmentation method, although the accuracy in retrieving the true sphericity was not dependent on tumour volume. In addition, even accurate segmentation can lead to an inaccurate sphericity value, and vice versa. Sphericity had similar or lower prognostic value than volume alone in the patients with lung cancer, except when determined using the FLAB method for which there was a small improvement in stratification when the parameters were combined.

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  • Accepted: Oct 19, 2017
  • Online: Nov 25, 2017

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