Computer Science and Engineering, Department of


Date of this Version



Shi, Y.; Tang, H.; Baine, M.J.; Hollingsworth, M.A.; Du, H.; Zheng, D.; Zhang, C.; Yu, H. 3DGAUnet: 3D Generative Adversarial Networks with a 3D U-Net Based Generator to Achieve the Accurate and Effective Synthesis of Clinical Tumor Image Data for Pancreatic Cancer. Cancers 2023, 15, 5496. 10.3390/cancers15235496


Open access.


Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) presents a critical global health challenge, and early detection is crucial for improving the 5-year survival rate. Recent medical imaging and computational algorithm advances offer potential solutions for early diagnosis. Deep learning, particularly in the form of convolutional neural networks (CNNs), has demonstrated success in medical image analysis tasks, including classification and segmentation. However, the limited availability of clinical data for training purposes continues to represent a significant obstacle. Data augmentation, generative adversarial networks (GANs), and cross-validation are potential techniques to address this limitation and improve model performance, but effective solutions are still rare for 3D PDAC, where the contrast is especially poor, owing to the high heterogeneity in both tumor and background tissues. In this study, we developed a new GAN-based model, named 3DGAUnet, for generating realistic 3D CT images of PDAC tumors and pancreatic tissue, which can generate the inter-slice connection data that the existing 2D CT image synthesis models lack. The transition to 3D models allowed the preservation of contextual information from adjacent slices, improving efficiency and accuracy, especially for the poor-contrast challenging case of PDAC. PDAC’s challenging characteristics, such as an iso-attenuating or hypodense appearance and lack of well-defined margins, make tumor shape and texture learning challenging. To overcome these challenges and improve the performance of 3D GAN models, our innovation was to develop a 3D U-Net architecture for the generator, to improve shape and texture learning for PDAC tumors and pancreatic tissue. Thorough examination and validation across many datasets were conducted on the developed 3D GAN model, to ascertain the efficacy and applicability of the model in clinical contexts. Our approach offers a promising path for tackling the urgent requirement for creative and synergistic methods to combat PDAC. The development of this GAN-based model has the potential to alleviate data scarcity issues, elevate the quality of synthesized data, and thereby facilitate the progression of deep learning models, to enhance the accuracy and early detection of PDAC tumors, which could profoundly impact patient outcomes. Furthermore, the model has the potential to be adapted to other types of solid tumors, hence making significant contributions to the field of medical imaging in terms of image processing models.