Considerable interobserver variation in delineation of pancreatic cancer on 3DCT and 4DCT: a multi-institutional study

Eva Versteijne*, Oliver J. Gurney-Champion, Astrid van der Horst, Eelco Lens, M. Willemijn Kolff, Jeroen Buijsen, Gati Ebrahimi, Karen J. Neelis, Coen R. N. Rasch, Jaap Stoker, Marcel van Herk, Arjan Bel, Geertjan van Tienhoven

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

15 Citations (Web of Science)


Background: The delineation of pancreatic tumors on CT is challenging. In this study, we quantified the interobserver variation for pancreatic tumor delineation on 3DCT as well as on 4DCT.

Methods: Eight observers (radiation oncologists) from six institutions delineated pancreatic tumors of four patients with (borderline) resectable pancreatic cancer. The study consisted of two stages. In the 3DCT-stage, the gross tumor volume (GTV) was delineated on a contrast-enhanced scan. In the 4DCT-stage, the internal GTV (iGTV) was delineated, accounting for the respiratory motion. We calculated the volumes of the (i) GTV, the overlap of the delineated volumes (expressed as generalized conformity index: CIgen), the local observer variation (local standard deviation: SD) and the overall observer variation (overall SD). We compared these results between GTVs and iGTVs. Additionally, observers were asked to fill out a questionnaire concerning the difficulty of the delineation and their experience in delineating pancreatic tumors.

Results: The ratios of the largest to the smallest delineated GTV and iGTV within the same patient were 6.8 and 16.5, respectively. As the iGTV incorporates the GTV during all respiratory phases, the mean volumes of the iGTV (40.07 cm(3)) were larger than those of the GTV (29.91 cm(3)). For all patients, CIgen was larger for the iGTV than for the GTV. The mean overall observer variation (root-mean-square of all local SDs over four patients) was 0.63 cm and 0.80 cm for GTV and iGTV, respectively. The largest local observer variations were seen close to biliary stents and suspicious pathological enlarged lymph nodes, as some observers included them and some did not. This variation was more pronounced for the iGTV than for the GTV. The observers rated the 3DCT-stage and 4DCT-stage equally difficult and treated on average three to four pancreatic cancer patients per year.

Conclusions: A considerable interobserver variation in delineation of pancreatic tumors was observed. This variation was larger for 4D than for 3D delineation. The largest local observer variation was found around biliary stents and suspicious pathological enlarged lymph nodes.

Original languageEnglish
Article number58
Number of pages10
JournalRadiation Oncology
Publication statusPublished - 23 Mar 2017


  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Delineation
  • Interobserver variation
  • CT
  • MRI

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