Discriminating early- and late-stage cancers using multiple kernel learning on gene sets

Arezou Rahimi, Mehmet Gönen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Motivation: Identifying molecular mechanisms that drive cancers from early to late stages is highly important to develop new preventive and therapeutic strategies. Standard machine learning algorithms could be used to discriminate early- and late-stage cancers from each other using their genomic characterizations. Even though these algorithms would get satisfactory predictive performance, their knowledge extraction capability would be quite restricted due to highly correlated nature of genomic data. That is why we need algorithms that can also extract relevant information about these biological mechanisms using our prior knowledge about pathways/gene sets. Results: In this study, we addressed the problem of separating early- and late-stage cancers from each other using their gene expression profiles. We proposed to use a multiple kernel learning (MKL) formulation that makes use of pathways/gene sets (i) to obtain satisfactory/improved predictive performance and (ii) to identify biological mechanisms that might have an effect in cancer progression. We extensively compared our proposed MKL on gene sets algorithm against two standard machine learning algorithms, namely, random forests and support vector machines, on 20 diseases from the Cancer Genome Atlas cohorts for two different sets of experiments. Our method obtained statistically significantly better or comparable predictive performance on most of the datasets using significantly fewer gene expression features. We also showed that our algorithm was able to extract meaningful and disease-specific information that gives clues about the progression mechanism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)i412-i421
Issue number13
StatePublished - Jul 1 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Statistics and Probability
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Computational Theory and Mathematics
  • Computational Mathematics


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