grt123 Algorithm


The algorithm consists of nodule detection and cancer classification based on 3D convolution neural networks. The model receives preprocessed 3D lung scans as input and outputs both the bounding boxes of suspicious nodules and the probability of getting cancer.


Author: Team grt123 Repository: place at the Data Science Bowl 2017


Neither mentioned in the repository nor in the technical report, but since the authors had to accept the Data Science Bowl rules, the code must be published under MIT license.


Dependency Name Version
Language Python 2.7
ML engine pyTorch 0.1.10+ac9245a
ML backend    
OS Ubuntu 14.04
Processor CPU yes
  GPU yes
GPU driver CUDA 8.0
  cuDNN 5.1

Dependency packages:


Algorithm design

First, a binary mask of a lung is applied to the data to filter out as much noise as possible. Next, a CNN is trained to detect nodules that might be malicious. Lastly, another CNN takes the top 5 nodules that appear to be most malicious and tries to predict whether the patient has cancer. For both networks data augmentation is used to artificially increase the amount of data on which they can be trained.


All raw data is first converted into Hounsfield units. It is then clipped with the window [-1200, 600] and then transformed linearly to [0, 255]. Next, a binary mask of the space inside a lung is calculated. screenshot from 2017-08-29 10-07-02 The mask is multiplied with the raw data in order to quickly remove noise that does not belong to the lung. Everything outside of the mask is padded with 170. All values greater than 210 (typically the bones) are replaced with 170 as well. The padding value 170 is chosen to resemble the intensity of tissue.

Nodule detection

Due to the memory constraints of the GPU, patches of sizes 128 x 128 x 128 are cropped from the lung scans and then fed to the network. 70% of the patches contain at least one nodule while the remaining 30% may contain no modules. If a patch goes beyond the range of the lung scan, it is padded with the value 170. For data augmentation, patches are randomly left-right flipped and resized with a ratio between 0.8 and 1.15. Oversampling was used for big nodules in the training set to achieve a more balanced distribution of nodule sizes. Also, hard negative mining was used to further balance the training set. The network structure looks as follows: screenshot from 2017-08-29 10-06-48

Prediction of cancer probability

After the nodule detection net (N-Net) was trained, the authors applied it onto the whole 3D scan of each patient. The top 5 proposed nodules of the N-Net are then fed to the cancer classification net. Next, they proceeded as follows:

We extracted the last convolution layer of N-Net for each proposal, which is a 32 × 32 × 32 cube of 128 features shown in Fig. 3 as a green volume. We max pool over the central 2 × 2 × 2 voxels of each proposal, and pass the resulting 128-D features to two succeeding fully connected layers to generate a prediction of cancer probability. We assume the final diagnosis is made from these 5 proposals and a hypothetical dummy nodule (in case N-Net missed some nodules) independently.*The whole approach can be seen in Figure 4. screenshot from 2017-08-29 10-06-03 The prediction loss is defined at the right hand side of Figure 4 where P_{d} is a free parameter representing the cancer probability from the dummy nodule.

Trained model


Usage instructions:Running should use the final models to create the output files for the Data Science Bowl.

Model Performance

Training- / prediction time

Test system:

Component Spec Count
GPU Memory >= 12GB

Training time: 4 days
Prediction time:

Model Evaluation

Dataset: Private Kaggle Test Data

Metric Score
Log-Loss 0.39975

Use cases

When to use this algorithm

  • when you want to achieve the least log-loss on the Data Science Bowl test data

When to avoid this algorithm

  • when you want to train the model by yourself from scratch (it took the authors 4 days on 8 TITAN X)

Adaptation into Concept To Clinic

Porting to Python 3.5+

I did not manage to run the complete algorithm so far as I’m lacking CUDA. @reubano attempted to port it to Python 3.5 here.

Porting to run on CPU and GPU

Since modules such as DataParallel are used, it appears to be non-trivial to make the algorithm run only using a CPU.

Improvements on the code base

As expected from a code base created at a competition, most of it is completely undocumented.

Adapting the model

Multiplying the data with a binary mask of a lung is a nice way to remove noise that does not belong to the lung itself. Also, using CNNs definitely makes sense as the weight sharing decreases the amount of memory needed by the model.


The accuracy and ranking of the algorithm speaks for itself. Though, I’m not sure how easy it is to re-use as it is completely undocumented, written in Python 2.7 and it took 8 TITAN X to train it. Hopefully, to segment a nodule it also works on a regular GPU of a desktop PC.