Optimisation Models for Pathway Activity Inference in Cancer

Yongnan Chen, Songsong Liu, Lazaros G. Papageorgiou, Konstantinos Theofilatos, Sophia Tsoka

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: With advances in high-throughput technologies, there has been an enormous increase in data related to profiling the activity of molecules in disease. While such data provide more comprehensive information on cellular actions, their large volume and complexity pose difficulty in accurate classification of disease phenotypes. Therefore, novel modelling methods that can improve accuracy while offering interpretable means of analysis are required. Biological pathways can be used to incorporate a priori knowledge of biological interactions to decrease data dimensionality and increase the biological interpretability of machine learning models. Methodology: A mathematical optimisation model is proposed for pathway activity inference towards precise disease phenotype prediction and is applied to RNA-Seq datasets. The model is based on mixed-integer linear programming (MILP) mathematical optimisation principles and infers pathway activity as the linear combination of pathway member gene expression, multiplying expression values with model-determined gene weights that are optimised to maximise discrimination of phenotype classes and minimise incorrect sample allocation. Results: The model is evaluated on the transcriptome of breast and colorectal cancer, and exhibits solution results of good optimality as well as good prediction performance on related cancer subtypes. Two baseline pathway activity inference methods and three advanced methods are used for comparison. Sample prediction accuracy, robustness against noise expression data, and survival analysis suggest competitive prediction performance of our model while providing interpretability and insight on key pathways and genes. Overall, our work demonstrates that the flexible nature of mathematical programming lends itself well to developing efficient computational strategies for pathway activity inference and disease subtype prediction.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1787
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 15 Mar 2023


Dive into the research topics of 'Optimisation Models for Pathway Activity Inference in Cancer'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this