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Robustness versus disease differentiation when varying parameter settings in radiomics features: application to nasopharyngeal PET/CT

  • Molecular Imaging
  • Published:
European Radiology Aims and scope Submit manuscript



To investigate the impact of parameter settings as used for the generation of radiomics features on their robustness and disease differentiation (nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) versus chronic nasopharyngitis (CN) in FDG PET/CT imaging).


We studied 106 patients (69/37 NPC/CN, pathology confirmed), and extracted 57 radiomics features under different parameter settings. Robustness was assessed by the intra-class correlation coefficient (ICC). Logistic regression with leave-one-out cross validation was used to generate classification probabilities, and diagnostic performance was assessed by the area under the receiver operating characteristic curve (AUC).


Varying averaging strategies and symmetry, 4/26 GLCM features showed poor range of pairwise ICCs of 0.02–0.98, while depicting good AUCs of 0.82–0.91. Varying distances, 5/26 GLCM features showed ICCs of 0.82–0.99 while corresponding AUCs were 0.52–0.91. 6/13 GLRLM features showed both high AUC (0.81–0.89) and high ICC (0.85–0.99) regarding to averaging strategies. 7/13 GLSZM features showed AUCs of 0.81–0.90 while having ICCs of 0.01–0.99 under different neighbourhoods. 2/5 NGTDM features showed AUCs of 0.81–0.85 while having ICCs of 0.19–0.89 for different window sizes. Differentiating a subset of NPC (stages I–II) form CN, both SumEntropy and SZLGE achieved significantly higher AUCs than metabolically active tumour volume (AUC: 0.91 vs. 0.72, p<0.01).


Radiomics features depicting poor absolute-scale robustness regarding to parameter settings can still lead to good diagnostic performance. As such, robustness of radiomics features should not be overemphasized for removal of features towards assessment of clinical tasks. For differentiating NPC from CN, some radiomics features (e.g. SumEntropy, SZLGE, LGZE) outperformed conventional metrics.

Key Points

• Poor robustness did not necessarily translate into poor differentiation performance.

• Absolute-scale robustness of radiomics features should not be overemphasized.

• Radiomics features SumEntropy, SZLGE and LGZE outperformed conventional metrics.

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Area under the ROC curve


Chronic nasopharyngitis




Grey level co-occurrence matrix


Grey level run length matrix


Grey level size zone matrix


Intra-class correlation coefficient


Leave-one-out cross validation


Metabolically active tumour volume


Neighbourhood grey tone difference matrix


Nasopharyngeal carcinoma


Receiver operating characteristic


Standardized uptake value


Total lesion glycolysis


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This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China under grants 61628105, 81501541, U1708261, 61471188, 81271641, the National key research and development program under grant 2016YFC0104003, the Natural Science Foundation of Guangdong Province under grants 2016A030313577, and the Program of Pearl River Young Talents of Science and Technology in Guangzhou under grant 201610010011.

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Correspondence to Jianhua Ma or Lijun Lu.

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The scientific guarantor of this publication is Dr. Lijun Lu.

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Lv, W., Yuan, Q., Wang, Q. et al. Robustness versus disease differentiation when varying parameter settings in radiomics features: application to nasopharyngeal PET/CT. Eur Radiol 28, 3245–3254 (2018).

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