Despite efforts for extensive molecular characterization of cancer patients, such as the international cancer genome consortium (ICGC) and the cancer genome atlas (TCGA), the heterogeneous nature of cancer and our limited knowledge of the contextual function of proteins have complicated the identification of targetable genes. Here, we present Aberration Hub Analysis for Cancer (AbHAC) as a novel integrative approach to pinpoint aberration hubs, i.e. individual proteins that interact extensively with genes that show aberrant mutation or expression. Our analysis of the breast cancer data of the TCGA and the renal cancer data from the ICGC shows that aberration hubs are involved in relevant cancer pathways, including factors promoting cell cycle and DNA replication in basal-like breast tumors, and Src kinase and VEGF signaling in renal carcinoma. Moreover, our analysis uncovers novel functionally relevant and actionable targets, among which we have experimentally validated abnormal splicing of spleen tyrosine kinase as a key factor for cell proliferation in renal cancer. Thus, AbHAC provides an effective strategy to uncover novel disease factors that are only identifiable by examining mutational and expression data in the context of biological networks.
Keywords: cancer; computational biology; genomics; systems biology; target discovery.