On an ensemble algorithm for clustering cancer patient data

Ran Qi, Dengyuan Wu, Li Sheng, Donald Henson, Arnold Schwartz, Eric Xu, Kai Xing, Dechang Chen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Background: The TNM staging system is based on three anatomic prognostic factors: Tumor, Lymph Node and Metastasis. However, cancer is no longer considered an anatomic disease. Therefore, the TNM should be expanded to accommodate new prognostic factors in order to increase the accuracy of estimating cancer patient outcome. The ensemble algorithm for clustering cancer data (EACCD) by Chen et al. reflects an effort to expand the TNM without changing its basic definitions. Though results on using EACCD have been reported, there has been no study on the analysis of the algorithm. In this report, we examine various aspects of EACCD using a large breast cancer patient dataset. We compared the output of EACCD with the corresponding survival curves, investigated the effect of different settings in EACCD, and compared EACCD with alternative clustering approaches. Results: Using the basic T and N definitions, EACCD generated a dendrogram that shows a graphic relationship among the survival curves of the breast cancer patients. The dendrograms from EACCD are robust for large values of m (the number of runs in the learning step). When m is large, the dendrograms depend on the linkage functions. The statistical tests, however, employed in the learning step have minimal effect on the dendrogram for large m. In addition, if omitting the step for learning dissimilarity in EACCD, the resulting approaches can have a degraded performance. Furthermore, clustering only based on prognostic factors could generate misleading dendrograms, and direct use of partitioning techniques could lead to misleading assignments to clusters. Conclusions: When only the Partitioning Around Medoids (PAM) algorithm is involved in the step of learning dissimilarity, large values of m are required to obtain robust dendrograms, and for a large m EACCD can effectively cluster cancer patient data.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberS9
JournalBMC Systems Biology
Issue numberSUPPL4
StatePublished - 23 Oct 2013
Externally publishedYes


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