Leveraging Bayesian networks and information theory to learn risk factors for breast cancer metastasis.
Jiang X, Wells A, Drufsky A, Shetty D, Sajihan K, Neapolitan RE. Leveraging Bayesian networks and information theory to learn risk factors for breast cancer metastasis. BMC Bioinformatics 2020 Jul 10;21(1):298. doi: 10.1186/s12859-020-03638-8. PMID: 32650714 PMCID: PMC7350636
Background: Even though we have established a few risk factors for metastatic breast cancer (MBC) through epidemiologic studies, these risk factors have not proven to be effective in predicting an individual’s risk of developing metastasis. Therefore, identifying critical risk factors for MBC continues to be a major research imperative, and one which can lead to advances in breast cancer clinical care. The objective of this research is to leverage Bayesian Networks (BN) and information theory to identify key risk factors for breast cancer metastasis from data. Methods: We develop the Markov Blanket and Interactive risk factor Learner (MBIL) algorithm, which learns single and interactive risk factors having a direct influence on a patient’s outcome. We evaluate the effectiveness of MBIL using simulated datasets, and compare MBIL with the BN learning algorithms Fast Greedy Search (FGS), PC algorithm (PC), and CPC algorithm (CPC). We apply MBIL to learn risk factors for 5year breast cancer metastasis using a clinical dataset we curated. We evaluate the learned risk factors by consulting with breast cancer experts and literature. We further evaluate the effectiveness of MBIL at learning risk factors for breast cancer metastasis by comparing it to the BN learning algorithms Necessary Path Condition(NPC) and Greedy Equivalent Search (GES). Results: The averages of the Jaccard index for the simulated datasets containing 2000 records were 0.705, 0.272, 0.228, and 0.147 for MBIL, FGS, PC, and CPC respectively. MBIL, NPC, and GES all learned that grade and lymph_nodes_positive are direct risk factors for 5year metastasis. Only MBIL and NPC found that surgical_margins is a direct risk factor. Only NPC found that invasive is a direct risk factor. MBIL learned that HER2 and ER interact to directly affect 5year metastasis. Neither GES nor NPC learned that HER2 and ER are direct risk factors. Discussion: The results involving simulated datasets indicated that MBIL can learn direct risk factors substantially better than standard Bayesian network learning algorithms. An application of MBIL to a real breast cancer dataset identified both single and interactive risk factors that directly influence breast cancer metastasis, which can be investigated further.