Network Propagation Predicts Drug Synergy in Cancers

Combination therapies are commonly used to treat patients with complex diseases that respond poorly to single-agent therapies. In vitro high-throughput drug screening is a standard method for preclinical prioritization of synergistic drug combinations, but it can be impractical for large drug sets. Computational methods are thus being actively explored; however, most published methods were built on a limited size of cancer cell lines or drugs, and it remains a challenge to predict synergism at a large scale where the diversity within the data escalates the difficulty of prediction. Here, we present a state-of-the-field synergy prediction algorithm, which ranked first in all subchallenges in the AstraZeneca-Sanger Drug Combination Prediction DREAM Challenge. The model was built and evaluated using the largest drug combination screening dataset at the time of the competition, consisting of approximately 11,500 experimentally tested synergy scores of 118 drugs in 85 cancer cell lines. We developed a novel feature extraction strategy by integrating the cross-cell and cross-drug information with a novel network propagation method and then assembled the information in monotherapy and simulated molecular data to predict drug synergy. This represents a significant conceptual advancement of synergy prediction, using extracted features in the form of simulated posttreatment molecular profiles when only the pretreatment molecular profile is available. Our cross-tissue synergism prediction algorithm achieves promising accuracy comparable with the correlation between experimental replicates and can be applied to other cancer cell lines and drugs to guide therapeutic choices.Significance: This study presents a novel network propagation–based method that predicts anticancer drug synergy to the accuracy of experimental replicates, which establishes a state-of-the-field method as benchmarked by the pharmacogenomics research community involving models generated by 160 teams. Cancer Res; 78(18); 5446–57. ©2018 AACR.

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