Combining biological gene expression signatures in predicting outcome in breast cancer: An alternative to supervised classification.
INTRODUCTION: Gene expression profiling has been extensively used to predict outcome in breast cancer patients. We have previously reported on biological hypothesis-driven analysis of gene expression profiling data and we wished to extend this approach through the combinations of various gene signatures to improve the prediction of outcome in breast cancer. METHODS: We have used gene expression data (25.000 gene probes) from a previously published study of tumours from 295 early stage breast cancer patients from the Netherlands Cancer Institute using updated follow-up. Tumours were assigned to three prognostic groups using the previously reported Wound-response and hypoxia-response signatures, and the outcome in each of these subgroups was evaluated. RESULTS: We have assigned invasive breast carcinomas from 295 stages I and II breast cancer patients to three groups based on gene expression profiles subdivided by the wound-response signature (WS) and hypoxia-response signature (HS). These three groups are (1) quiescent WS/non-hypoxic HS; (2) activated WS/non-hypoxic HS or quiescent WS/hypoxic tumours and (3) activated WS/hypoxic HS. The overall survival at 15 years for patients with tumours in groups 1, 2 and 3 are 79%, 59% and 27%, respectively. In multivariate analysis, this signature is not only independent of clinical and pathological risk factors; it is also the strongest predictor of outcome. Compared to a previously identified 70-gene prognosis profile, obtained with supervised classification, the combination of signatures performs roughly equally well and might have additional value in the ER-negative subgroup. In the subgroup of lymph node positive patients, the combination signature outperforms the 70-gene signature in multivariate analysis. In addition, in multivariate analysis, the WS/HS combination is a stronger predictor of outcome compared to the recently reported invasiveness gene signature combined with the WS. CONCLUSION: A combination of biological gene expression signatures can be used to identify a powerful and independent predictor for outcome in breast cancer patients.
Nuyten, DSA; Hastie, T; Chi, J-TA; Chang, HY; van de Vijver, MJ
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