Brain tumors represent the highest cause of mortality in the pediatric oncological population. Diagnosis is commonly performed with magnetic resonance imaging. Survival biomarkers are challenging to identify due to the relatively low numbers of individual tumor types. 69 children with biopsy-confirmed brain tumors were recruited into this study. All participants had perfusion and diffusion weighted imaging performed at diagnosis. Imaging data were processed using conventional methods, and a Bayesian survival analysis performed. Unsupervised and supervised machine learning were performed with the survival features, to determine novel sub-groups related to survival. Sub-group analysis was undertaken to understand differences in imaging features. Survival analysis showed that a combination of diffusion and perfusion imaging were able to determine two novel sub-groups of brain tumors with different survival characteristics (p < 0.01), which were subsequently classified with high accuracy (98%) by a neural network. Analysis of high-grade tumors showed a marked difference in survival (p = 0.029) between the two clusters with high risk and low risk imaging features. This study has developed a novel model of survival for pediatric brain tumors. Tumor perfusion plays a key role in determining survival and should be considered as a high priority for future imaging protocols.
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Funding: We would like to acknowledge funding from The CCLG and Little Princess Trust (CCLGA 2017 15) who funded Dr James Grist, Action Medical Research and the Brain Tumor Charity (GN2181), Children with Cancer (15/188), Birmingham Children’s Hospital Research Foundation, Help Harry Help Others, Poppyfields, Children’s Research Fund, Cancer Research UK and EPSRC Cancer Imaging Programme the Children’s Cancer and Leukaemia Group (CCLG) in association with the MRC and Department of Health (England) (C7809/A10342), the Cancer Research UK and NIHR Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre Paediatric Network (C8232/A25261), the Medical Research Council—Health Data Research UK Substantive Site and Help Harry Help Others charity. Professor Peet is funded through an NIHR Research Professorship, NIHR-RP-R2-12-019. Stephen Powell gratefully acknowledges financial support from EPSRC through a studentship from the Physical Sciences for Health Centre for Doctoral Training (EP/L016346/1). Theodoros Arvanitis is partially funded by the MRC (HDR UK).