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Comparative survival analysis of breast cancer microarray studies identifies important prognostic genetic pathways

Jeffrey C Miecznikowski12*, Dan Wang2, Song Liu2, Lara Sucheston12 and David Gold12

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Biostatistics, University at Buffalo (SUNY), Buffalo, New York 14214 USA

2 Department of Biostatistics, Roswell Park Cancer Institute, Buffalo, New York 14263 USA

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BMC Cancer 2010, 10:573  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-10-573

Published: 21 October 2010



An estimated 12% of females in the United States will develop breast cancer in their lifetime. Although, there are advances in treatment options including surgery and chemotherapy, breast cancer is still the second most lethal cancer in women. Thus, there is a clear need for better methods to predict prognosis for each breast cancer patient. With the advent of large genetic databases and the reduction in cost for the experiments, researchers are faced with choosing from a large pool of potential prognostic markers from numerous breast cancer gene expression profile studies.


Five microarray datasets related to breast cancer were examined using gene set analysis and the cancers were categorized into different subtypes using a scoring system based on genetic pathway activity.


We have observed that significant genes in the individual studies show little reproducibility across the datasets. From our comparative analysis, using gene pathways with clinical variables is more reliable across studies and shows promise in assessing a patient's prognosis.


This study concludes that, in light of clinical variables, there are significant gene pathways in common across the datasets. Specifically, several pathways can further significantly stratify patients for survival. These candidate pathways should help to develop a panel of significant biomarkers for the prognosis of breast cancer patients in a clinical setting.