Random forest in clinical metabolomics for phenotypic discrimination and biomarker selection

Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2013;2013:298183. doi: 10.1155/2013/298183. Epub 2013 Feb 2.

Abstract

Metabolomic data analysis becomes increasingly challenging when dealing with clinical samples with diverse demographic and genetic backgrounds and various pathological conditions or treatments. Although many classification tools, such as projection to latent structures (PLS), support vector machine (SVM), linear discriminant analysis (LDA), and random forest (RF), have been successfully used in metabolomics, their performance including strengths and limitations in clinical data analysis has not been clear to researchers due to the lack of systematic evaluation of these tools. In this paper we comparatively evaluated the four classifiers, PLS, SVM, LDA, and RF, in the analysis of clinical metabolomic data derived from gas chromatography mass spectrometry platform of healthy subjects and patients diagnosed with colorectal cancer, where cross-validation, R (2)/Q (2) plot, receiver operating characteristic curve, variable reduction, and Pearson correlation were performed. RF outperforms the other three classifiers in the given clinical data sets, highlighting its comparative advantages as a suitable classification and biomarker selection tool for clinical metabolomic data analysis.