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Sci Rep. 2019 Feb 20;9(1):2379. doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-39019-2.

Prediction of response to anti-cancer drugs becomes robust via network integration of molecular data.

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Department of Microbiology, Tumor and Cell Biology (MTC), Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden.
Department of Cell and Molecular Biology, Karolinska Institutet, 171 77, Stockholm, Sweden.
OncoProteomics Laboratory, Department of Medical Oncology, VU University Medical Center, 1081HV, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
Department of Microbiology, Tumor and Cell Biology (MTC), Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden.
National Bioinformatics Infrastructure Sweden, Science for Life Laboratory, Box 1031, 17121, Solna, Sweden.


Despite the widening range of high-throughput platforms and exponential growth of generated data volume, the validation of biomarkers discovered from large-scale data remains a challenging field. In order to tackle cancer heterogeneity and comply with the data dimensionality, a number of network and pathway approaches were invented but rarely systematically applied to this task. We propose a new method, called NEAmarker, for finding sensitive and robust biomarkers at the pathway level. scores from network enrichment analysis transform the original space of altered genes into a lower-dimensional space of pathways. These dimensions are then correlated with phenotype variables. The method was first tested using in vitro data from three anti-cancer drug screens and then on clinical data of The Cancer Genome Atlas. It proved superior to the single-gene and alternative enrichment analyses in terms of (1) universal applicability to different data types with a possibility of cross-platform integration, (2) consistency of the discovered correlates between independent drug screens, and (3) ability to explain differential survival of treated patients. Our new screen of anti-cancer compounds validated the performance of multivariate models of drug sensitivity. The previously proposed methods of enrichment analysis could achieve comparable levels of performance in certain tests. However, only our method could discover predictors of both in vitro response and patient survival given administration of the same drug.

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