Several decades of molecular biology research have delivered a wealth of detailed descriptions of molecular interactions in normal and tumour cells. This knowledge has been functionally organised and assembled into dedicated biological pathway resources that serve as an invaluable tool, not only for structuring the information about molecular interactions but also for making it available for biological, clinical and computational studies. With the advent of high-throughput molecular profiling of tumours, close to complete molecular catalogues of mutations, gene expression and epigenetic modifications are available and require adequate interpretation. Taking into account the information about biological signalling machinery in cells may help to better interpret molecular profiles of tumours. Making sense out of these descriptions requires biological pathway resources for functional interpretation of the data. In this review, we describe the available biological pathway resources, their characteristics in terms of construction mode, focus, aims and paradigms of biological knowledge representation. We present a new resource that is focused on cancer-related signalling, the Atlas of Cancer Signalling Networks. We briefly discuss current approaches for data integration, visualisation and analysis, using biological networks, such as pathway scoring, guilt-by-association and network propagation. Finally, we illustrate with several examples the added value of data interpretation in the context of biological networks and demonstrate that it may help in analysis of high-throughput data like mutation, gene expression or small interfering RNA screening and can guide in patients stratification. Finally, we discuss perspectives for improving precision medicine using biological network resources and tools. Taking into account the information about biological signalling machinery in cells may help to better interpret molecular patterns of tumours and enable to put precision oncology into general clinical practice.
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