Informatics approaches for integrative analysis of disparate high-throughput genomic datasets in cancer
The processes of a human somatic cell are very complex with various genetic mechanisms governing its fate. Such cells undergo various genetic mutations, which translate to the genetic aberrations that we see in cancer. There are more than 100 types of cancer, each having many more subtypes with aberrations being unique to each. In the past two decades, the widespread application of high-throughput genomic technologies, such as micro-arrays and next-generation sequencing, has led to the revelation of many such aberrations. Known types and subtypes can be readily identified using gene-expression profiling and more importantly, high-throughput genomic datasets have helped identify novel sub-types with distinct signatures. Recent studies showing usage of gene-expression profiling in clinical decision making in breast cancer patients underscore the utility of high-throughput datasets. Beyond prognosis, understanding the underlying cellular processes is essential for effective cancer treatment. Various high-throughput techniques are now available to look at a particular aspect of a genetic mechanism in cancer tissue. To look at these mechanisms individually is akin to looking at a broken watch; taking apart each of its parts, looking at them individually and finally making a list of all the faulty ones. Integrative approaches are needed to transform one-dimensional cancer signatures into multi-dimensional interaction and regulatory networks, consequently bettering our understanding of cellular processes in cancer. Here, I attempt to (i) address ways to effectively identify high quality variants when multiple assays on the same sample samples are available through two novel tools, snpSniffer and NGSPE; (ii) glean new biological insight into multiple myeloma through two novel integrative analysis approaches making use of disparate high-throughput datasets. While these methods focus on multiple myeloma datasets, the informatics approaches are applicable to all cancer datasets and will thus help advance cancer genomics.