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Nucleic Acids Res. 2013 Sep;41(17):8011-20. doi: 10.1093/nar/gkt577. Epub 2013 Jul 2.

Dissecting cancer heterogeneity with a probabilistic genotype-phenotype model.

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National Center for Biotechnology Information, National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20894, USA.


One of the obstacles hindering a better understanding of cancer is its heterogeneity. However, computational approaches to model cancer heterogeneity have lagged behind. To bridge this gap, we have developed a new probabilistic approach that models individual cancer cases as mixtures of subtypes. Our approach can be seen as a meta-model that summarizes the results of a large number of alternative models. It does not assume predefined subtypes nor does it assume that such subtypes have to be sharply defined. Instead given a measure of phenotypic similarity between patients and a list of potential explanatory features, such as mutations, copy number variation, microRNA levels, etc., it explains phenotypic similarities with the help of these features. We applied our approach to Glioblastoma Multiforme (GBM). The resulting model Prob_GBM, not only correctly inferred known relationships but also identified new properties underlining phenotypic similarities. The proposed probabilistic framework can be applied to model relations between similarity of gene expression and a broad spectrum of potential genetic causes.

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