A novel single-cell based method for breast cancer prognosis

PLoS Comput Biol. 2020 Aug 24;16(8):e1008133. doi: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1008133. eCollection 2020 Aug.


Breast cancer prognosis is challenging due to the heterogeneity of the disease. Various computational methods using bulk RNA-seq data have been proposed for breast cancer prognosis. However, these methods suffer from limited performances or ambiguous biological relevance, as a result of the neglect of intra-tumor heterogeneity. Recently, single cell RNA-sequencing (scRNA-seq) has emerged for studying tumor heterogeneity at cellular levels. In this paper, we propose a novel method, scPrognosis, to improve breast cancer prognosis with scRNA-seq data. scPrognosis uses the scRNA-seq data of the biological process Epithelial-to-Mesenchymal Transition (EMT). It firstly infers the EMT pseudotime and a dynamic gene co-expression network, then uses an integrative model to select genes important in EMT based on their expression variation and differentiation in different stages of EMT, and their roles in the dynamic gene co-expression network. To validate and apply the selected signatures to breast cancer prognosis, we use them as the features to build a prediction model with bulk RNA-seq data. The experimental results show that scPrognosis outperforms other benchmark breast cancer prognosis methods that use bulk RNA-seq data. Moreover, the dynamic changes in the expression of the selected signature genes in EMT may provide clues to the link between EMT and clinical outcomes of breast cancer. scPrognosis will also be useful when applied to scRNA-seq datasets of different biological processes other than EMT.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Breast Neoplasms / genetics
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Epithelial-Mesenchymal Transition
  • Female
  • Gene Expression
  • Humans
  • Prognosis
  • Sequence Analysis, RNA / methods
  • Single-Cell Analysis / methods*