Clinical Data Prediction Model to Identify Patients With Early-Stage Pancreatic Cancer.

Journal Article (Journal Article)


Pancreatic cancer is an aggressive malignancy with patients often experiencing nonspecific symptoms before diagnosis. This study evaluates a machine learning approach to help identify patients with early-stage pancreatic cancer from clinical data within electronic health records (EHRs).

Materials and methods

From the Optum deidentified EHR data set, we identified early-stage (n = 3,322) and late-stage (n = 25,908) pancreatic cancer cases over 40 years of age diagnosed between 2009 and 2017. Patients with early-stage pancreatic cancer were matched to noncancer controls (1:16 match). We constructed a prediction model using eXtreme Gradient Boosting (XGBoost) to identify early-stage patients on the basis of 18,220 features within the EHR including diagnoses, procedures, information within clinical notes, and medications. Model accuracy was assessed with sensitivity, specificity, positive predictive value, and the area under the curve.


The final predictive model included 582 predictive features from the EHR, including 248 (42.5%) physician note elements, 146 (25.0%) procedure codes, 91 (15.6%) diagnosis codes, 89 (15.3%) medications, and 9 (1.5%) demographic features. The final model area under the curve was 0.84. Choosing a model cut point with a sensitivity of 60% and specificity of 90% would enable early detection of 58% late-stage patients with a median of 24 months before their actual diagnosis.


Prediction models using EHR data show promise in the early detection of pancreatic cancer. Although widespread use of this approach on an unselected population would produce high rates of false-positive tests, this technique may be rapidly impactful if deployed among high-risk patients or paired with other imaging or biomarker screening tools.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Chen, Q; Cherry, DR; Nalawade, V; Qiao, EM; Kumar, A; Lowy, AM; Simpson, DR; Murphy, JD

Published Date

  • March 2021

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 5 /

Start / End Page

  • 279 - 287

PubMed ID

  • 33739856

Pubmed Central ID

  • PMC8462624

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 2473-4276

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 2473-4276

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1200/cci.20.00137


  • eng