The correct classification of cancer subtypes is of great significance for the in-depth study of cancer pathogenesis and the realization of accurate treatment for cancer patients. In recent years, the classification of cancer subtypes using deep neural networks and gene expression data has become a hot topic. However, most classifiers may face the challenges of overfitting and low classification accuracy when dealing with small sample size and high-dimensional biological data. In this paper, the Cascade Flexible Neural Forest (CFNForest) Model was proposed to accomplish cancer subtype classification. CFNForest extended the traditional flexible neural tree structure to FNT Group Forest exploiting a bagging ensemble strategy and could automatically generate the model's structure and parameters. In order to deepen the FNT Group Forest without introducing new hyperparameters, the multilayer cascade framework was exploited to design the FNT Group Forest model, which transformed features between levels and improved the performance of the model. The proposed CFNForest model also improved the operational efficiency and the robustness of the model by sample selection mechanism between layers and setting different weights for the output of each layer. To accomplish cancer subtype classification, FNT Group Forest with different feature sets was used to enrich the structural diversity of the model, which make it more suitable for processing small sample size datasets. The experiments on RNA-seq gene expression data showed that CFNForest effectively improves the accuracy of cancer subtype classification. The classification results have good robustness.
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