In medical research, it is rare that a single variable is sufficient to represent all relevant aspects of epidemiological risk, genomic activity, adverse events, or clinical response. Since biological systems tend to be neither linear, nor hierarchical in nature, the assumptions of traditional multivariate statistical methods based on the linear model can often not be justified on theoretical grounds. Establishing concept validity through empirical validation is not only problematic, but also time consuming. This paper proposes the use of u-statistics for scoring multivariate ordinal data and a family of simple non-parametric tests for analysis. The scoring method is demonstrated to be applicable to scoring clinical response profiles in the treatment of psoriasis and then to identifying genomic pathways that best correlate with these profiles.
Copyright 2004 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.