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Clin Cancer Res. 2008 Jan 1;14(1):108-14. doi: 10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-07-0443.

How large a training set is needed to develop a classifier for microarray data?

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Biometric Research Branch, Division of Cancer Treatment and Diagnosis, National Cancer Institute, NIH, Rockville, Maryland 20852, USA.



A common goal of gene expression microarray studies is the development of a classifier that can be used to divide patients into groups with different prognoses, or with different expected responses to a therapy. These types of classifiers are developed on a training set, which is the set of samples used to train a classifier. The question of how many samples are needed in the training set to produce a good classifier from high-dimensional microarray data is challenging.


We present a model-based approach to determining the sample size required to adequately train a classifier.


It is shown that sample size can be determined from three quantities: standardized fold change, class prevalence, and number of genes or features on the arrays. Numerous examples and important experimental design issues are discussed. The method is adapted to address ex post facto determination of whether the size of a training set used to develop a classifier was adequate. An interactive web site for performing the sample size calculations is provided.


We showed that sample size calculations for classifier development from high-dimensional microarray data are feasible, discussed numerous important considerations, and presented examples.

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