Prediction of cancer driver genes through network-based moment propagation of mutation scores

Bioinformatics. 2020 Jul 1;36(Suppl_1):i508-i515. doi: 10.1093/bioinformatics/btaa452.


Motivation: Gaining a comprehensive understanding of the genetics underlying cancer development and progression is a central goal of biomedical research. Its accomplishment promises key mechanistic, diagnostic and therapeutic insights. One major step in this direction is the identification of genes that drive the emergence of tumors upon mutation. Recent advances in the field of computational biology have shown the potential of combining genetic summary statistics that represent the mutational burden in genes with biological networks, such as protein-protein interaction networks, to identify cancer driver genes. Those approaches superimpose the summary statistics on the nodes in the network, followed by an unsupervised propagation of the node scores through the network. However, this unsupervised setting does not leverage any knowledge on well-established cancer genes, a potentially valuable resource to improve the identification of novel cancer drivers.

Results: We develop a novel node embedding that enables classification of cancer driver genes in a supervised setting. The embedding combines a representation of the mutation score distribution in a node's local neighborhood with network propagation. We leverage the knowledge of well-established cancer driver genes to define a positive class, resulting in a partially labeled dataset, and develop a cross-validation scheme to enable supervised prediction. The proposed node embedding followed by a supervised classification improves the predictive performance compared with baseline methods and yields a set of promising genes that constitute candidates for further biological validation.

Availability and implementation: Code available at

Supplementary information: Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Computational Biology*
  • Humans
  • Mutation
  • Neoplasms* / genetics
  • Oncogenes
  • Protein Interaction Maps