A Machine Learning Model Approach to Risk-Stratify Patients With Gastrointestinal Cancer for Hospitalization and Mortality Outcomes

Kaitlin M. Christopherson, Prajnan Das, Christopher Berlind, W. David Lindsay, Christopher Ahern, Benjamin D. Smith, Ishwaria M. Subbiah, Eugene J. Koay, Albert C. Koong, Emma B. Holliday, Ethan B. Ludmir, Bruce D. Minsky, Cullen M. Taniguchi, Grace L. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


PURPOSE: Patients with gastrointestinal (GI) cancer frequently experience unplanned hospitalizations, but predictive tools to identify high-risk patients are lacking. We developed a machine learning model to identify high-risk patients.

METHODS AND MATERIALS: In the study, 1341 consecutive patients undergoing GI (abdominal or pelvic) radiation treatment (RT) from March 2016 to July 2018 (derivation) and July 2018 to January 2019 (validation) were assessed for unplanned hospitalizations within 30 days of finishing RT. In the derivation cohort of 663 abdominal and 427 pelvic RT patients, a machine learning approach derived random forest, gradient boosted decision tree, and logistic regression models to predict 30-day unplanned hospitalizations. Model performance was assessed using area under the receiver operating characteristic curve (AUC) and prospectively validated in 161 abdominal and 90 pelvic RT patients using Mann-Whitney rank-sum test. Highest quintile of risk for hospitalization was defined as "high-risk" and the remainder "low-risk." Hospitalizations for high- versus low-risk patients were compared using Pearson's χ 2 test and survival using Kaplan-Meier log-rank test.

RESULTS: Overall, 13% and 11% of patients receiving abdominal and pelvic RT experienced 30-day unplanned hospitalization. In the derivation phase, gradient boosted decision tree cross-validation yielded AUC = 0.823 (abdominal patients) and random forest yielded AUC = 0.776 (pelvic patients). In the validation phase, these models yielded AUC = 0.749 and 0.764, respectively (P < .001 and P = .002). Validation models discriminated high- versus low-risk patients: in abdominal RT patients, frequency of hospitalization was 39% versus 9% in high- versus low-risk groups (P < .001) and 6-month survival was 67% versus 92% (P = .001). In pelvic RT patients, frequency of hospitalization was 33% versus 8% (P = .002) and survival was 86% versus 92% (P = .15) in high- versus low-risk patients.

CONCLUSIONS: In patients with GI cancer undergoing RT as part of multimodality treatment, machine learning models for 30-day unplanned hospitalization discriminated high- versus low-risk patients. Future applications will test utility of models to prompt interventions to decrease hospitalizations and adverse outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)135-142
Number of pages8
JournalInternational Journal of Radiation Oncology Biology Physics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Sep 1 2021


  • Abdomen/radiation effects
  • Aged
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Neoplasms/mortality
  • Hospitalization
  • Humans
  • Machine Learning
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pelvis/radiation effects
  • Risk

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiation
  • Oncology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Cancer Research


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