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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Predicting cancer involvement of genes from heterogeneous data

Ramon Aragues1, Chris Sander2 and Baldo Oliva1

Author Affiliations

1 Structural Bioinformatics Lab. (GRIB), Universitat Pompeu Fabra-IMIM, Barcelona Research Park of Biomedicine (PRBB), 08003-Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain

2 Computational Biology Center, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, 1275 York Avenue, Box 460, New York, NY 10065, USA

BMC Bioinformatics 2008, 9:172  doi:10.1186/1471-2105-9-172

Published: 27 March 2008



Systematic approaches for identifying proteins involved in different types of cancer are needed. Experimental techniques such as microarrays are being used to characterize cancer, but validating their results can be a laborious task. Computational approaches are used to prioritize between genes putatively involved in cancer, usually based on further analyzing experimental data.


We implemented a systematic method using the PIANA software that predicts cancer involvement of genes by integrating heterogeneous datasets. Specifically, we produced lists of genes likely to be involved in cancer by relying on: (i) protein-protein interactions; (ii) differential expression data; and (iii) structural and functional properties of cancer genes. The integrative approach that combines multiple sources of data obtained positive predictive values ranging from 23% (on a list of 811 genes) to 73% (on a list of 22 genes), outperforming the use of any of the data sources alone. We analyze a list of 20 cancer gene predictions, finding that most of them have been recently linked to cancer in literature.


Our approach to identifying and prioritizing candidate cancer genes can be used to produce lists of genes likely to be involved in cancer. Our results suggest that differential expression studies yielding high numbers of candidate cancer genes can be filtered using protein interaction networks.