To investigate the predictive performance of machine learning-based CT radiomics for differentiating between low- and high-nuclear grade of clear cell renal cell carcinomas (CCRCCs).
This retrospective study enrolled 406 patients with pathologically confirmed low- and high-nuclear grade of CCRCCs according to the WHO/ISUP grading system, which were divided into the training and testing cohorts. Radiomics features were extracted from nephrographic-phase CT images using PyRadiomics. A support vector machine (SVM) combined with three feature selection algorithms such as least absolute shrinkage and selection operator (LASSO), recursive feature elimination (RFE), and ReliefF was performed to determine the most suitable classification model, respectively. Clinicoradiological, radiomics, and combined models were constructed using the radiological and clinical characteristics with significant differences between the groups, selected radiomics features, and a combination of both, respectively. Model performance was evaluated by receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curve, calibration curve, and decision curve analyses.
SVM-ReliefF algorithm outperformed SVM-LASSO and SVM-RFE in distinguishing low- from high-grade CCRCCs. The combined model showed better prediction performance than the clinicoradiological and radiomics models (p < 0.05, DeLong test), which achieved the highest efficacy, with an area under the ROC curve (AUC) value of 0.887 (95% confidence interval [CI] 0.798-0.952), 0.859 (95% CI 0.748-0.935), and 0.828 (95% CI 0.731-0.929) in the training, validation, and testing cohorts, respectively. The calibration and decision curves also indicated the favorable performance of the combined model.
A combined model incorporating the radiomics features and clinicoradiological characteristics can better predict the WHO/ISUP nuclear grade of CCRCC preoperatively, thus providing effective and noninvasive assessment.

© 2021. The Author(s).