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A Crowdsourcing Approach to Develop Machine Learning Models to Quantify Radiographic Joint Damage in Rheumatoid Arthritis

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IMPORTANCE An automated, accurate method is needed for unbiased assessment quantifying accrual of joint space narrowing and erosions on radiographic images of the hands and wrists, and feet for clinical trials, monitoring of joint damage over time, assisting rheumatologists with treatment decisions. Such a method has the potential to be directly integrated into electronic health records. OBJECTIVES To design and implement an international crowdsourcing competition to catalyze the development of machine learning methods to quantify radiographic damage in rheumatoid arthritis (RA). DESIGN, SETTING, AND PARTICIPANTS This diagnostic/prognostic study describes the Rheumatoid Arthritis 2-Dialogue for Reverse Engineering Assessment and Methods (RA2-DREAM Challenge), which used existing radiographic images and expert-curated Sharp-van der Heijde (SvH) scores from 2 clinical studies (674 radiographic sets from 562 patients) for training (367 sets), leaderboard (119 sets), and final evaluation (188 sets). Challenge participants were tasked with developing methods to automatically quantify overall damage (subchallenge 1), joint space narrowing (subchallenge 2), and erosions (subchallenge 3). The challenge was finished on June 30, 2020. MAIN OUTCOMES AND MEASURES Scores derived from submitted algorithms were compared with the expert-curated SvH scores, and a baseline model was created for benchmark comparison. Performances were ranked using weighted root mean square error (RMSE). The performance and reproductivity of each algorithm was assessed using Bayes factor from bootstrapped data, and further evaluated with a postchallenge independent validation data set. RESULTS The RA2-DREAM Challenge received a total of 173 submissions from 26 participants or teams in 7 countries for the leaderboard round, and 13 submissions were included in the final evaluation. The weighted RMSEs metric showed that the winning algorithms produced scores that were very close to the expert-curated SvH scores. Top teams included Team Shirin for subchallenge 1 (weighted RMSE, 0.44), HYL-YFG (Hongyang Li and Yuanfang Guan) subchallenge 2 (weighted RMSE, 0.38), and Gold Therapy for subchallenge 3 (weighted RMSE, 0.43). Bootstrapping/Bayes factor approach and the postchallenge independent validation confirmed the reproducibility and the estimation concordance indices between final evaluation and postchallenge independent validation data set were 0.71 for subchallenge 1, 0.78 for subchallenge 2, and 0.82 for subchallenge 3. CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE The RA2-DREAM Challenge resulted in the development of algorithms that provide feasible, quick, and accurate methods to quantify joint damage in RA. Ultimately, these methods could help research studies on RA joint damage and may be integrated into electronic health records to help clinicians serve patients better by providing timely, reliable, and quantitative information for making treatment decisions to prevent further damage.