With technological advances now allowing measurement of thousands of genes, proteins and metabolites, researchers are using this information to develop diagnostic and prognostic tests and discern the biological pathways underlying diseases. Often, an investigator's objective is to develop a classification rule to predict group membership of unknown samples based on a small set of features and that could ultimately be used in a clinical setting. While common classification methods such as random forest and support vector machines are effective at separating groups, they do not directly translate into a clinically-applicable classification rule based on a small number of features.We present a simple feature selection and classification method for biomarker detection that is intuitively understandable and can be directly extended for application to a clinical setting. We first use a jackknife procedure to identify important features and then, for classification, we use voting classifiers which are simple and easy to implement. We compared our method to random forest and support vector machines using three benchmark cancer 'omics datasets with different characteristics. We found our jackknife procedure and voting classifier to perform comparably to these two methods in terms of accuracy. Further, the jackknife procedure yielded stable feature sets. Voting classifiers in combination with a robust feature selection method such as our jackknife procedure offer an effective, simple and intuitive approach to feature selection and classification with a clear extension to clinical applications.
Keywords: classification; feature selection; gene expression; jackknife; voting classifier.