Motivation

The size of available omics datasets is steadily increasing with technological advancement in recent years. While this increase in sample size can be used to improve the performance of relevant prediction tasks in healthcare, models that are optimized for large datasets usually operate as black boxes. In high-stakes scenarios, like healthcare, using a black-box model poses safety and security issues. Without an explanation about molecular factors and phenotypes that affected the prediction, healthcare providers are left with no choice but to blindly trust the models. We propose a new type of artificial neural network, named Convolutional Omics Kernel Network (COmic). By combining convolutional kernel networks with pathway-induced kernels, our method enables robust and interpretable end-to-end learning on omics datasets ranging in size from a few hundred to several hundreds of thousands of samples. Furthermore, COmic can be easily adapted to utilize multiomics data.

Results

We evaluated the performance capabilities of COmic on six different breast cancer cohorts. Additionally, we trained COmic models on multiomics data using the METABRIC cohort. Our models performed either better or similar to competitors on both tasks. We show how the use of pathway-induced Laplacian kernels opens the black-box nature of neural networks and results in intrinsically interpretable models that eliminate the need for post hoc explanation models.

Availability and implementation

Datasets, labels, and pathway-induced graph Laplacians used for the single-omics tasks can be downloaded at https://ibm.ent.box.com/s/ac2ilhyn7xjj27r0xiwtom4crccuobst/folder/48027287036. While datasets and graph Laplacians for the METABRIC cohort can be downloaded from the above mentioned repository, the labels have to be downloaded from cBioPortal at https://www.cbioportal.org/study/clinicalData?id=brca\_metabric. COmic source code as well as all scripts necessary to reproduce the experiments and analysis are publicly available at https://github.com/jditz/comics.

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted reuse, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.