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Anal Bioanal Chem. 2013 Oct;405(26):8419-29. doi: 10.1007/s00216-013-7284-4. Epub 2013 Sep 13.

Introduction of a new critical p value correction method for statistical significance analysis of metabonomics data.

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Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Miami University, Oxford, OH, 45056, USA.


Nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy-based metabonomics is of growing importance for discovery of human disease biomarkers. Identification and validation of disease biomarkers using statistical significance analysis (SSA) is critical for translation to clinical practice. SSA is performed by assessing a null hypothesis test using a derivative of the Student's t test, e.g., a Welch's t test. Choosing how to correct the significance level for rejecting null hypotheses in the case of multiple testing to maintain a constant family-wise type I error rate is a common problem in such tests. The multiple testing problem arises because the likelihood of falsely rejecting the null hypothesis, i.e., a false positive, grows as the number of tests applied to the same data set increases. Several methods have been introduced to address this problem. Bonferroni correction (BC) assumes all variables are independent and therefore sacrifices sensitivity for detecting true positives in partially dependent data sets. False discovery rate (FDR) methods are more sensitive than BC but uniformly ascribe highest stringency to lowest p value variables. Here, we introduce standard deviation step down (SDSD), which is more sensitive and appropriate than BC for partially dependent data sets. Sensitivity and type I error rate of SDSD can be adjusted based on the degree of variable dependency. SDSD generates fundamentally different profiles of critical p values compared with FDR methods potentially leading to reduced type II error rates. SDSD is increasingly sensitive for more concentrated metabolites. SDSD is demonstrated using NMR-based metabonomics data collected on three different breast cancer cell line extracts.

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