Improving Cancer Survival Prediction via Graph Convolutional Neural Network Learning on Protein-Protein Interaction Networks

Hongmin Cai, Yi Liao, Lei Zhu, Zhikang Wang, Jiangning Song

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


Cancer is one of the most challenging health problems worldwide. Accurate cancer survival prediction is vital for clinical decision making. Many deep learning methods have been proposed to understand the association between patients' genomic features and survival time. In most cases, the gene expression matrix is fed directly to the deep learning model. However, this approach completely ignores the interactions between biomolecules, and the resulting models can only learn the expression levels of genes to predict patient survival. In essence, the interaction between biomolecules is the key to determining the direction and function of biological processes. Proteins are the building blocks and principal undertakings of life activities, and as such, their complex interaction network is potentially informative for deep learning methods. Therefore, a more reliable approach is to have the neural network learn both gene expression data and protein interaction networks. We propose a new computational approach, termed CRESCENT, which is a protein-protein interaction (PPI) prior knowledge graph-based convolutional neural network (GCN) to improve cancer survival prediction. CRESCENT relies on the gene expression networks rather than gene expression levels to predict patient survival. The performance of CRESCENT is evaluated on a large-scale pan-cancer dataset consisting of 5991 patients from 16 different types of cancers. Extensive benchmarking experiments demonstrate that our proposed method is competitive in terms of the evaluation metric of the time-dependent concordance index(ctd) when compared with several existing state-of-the-art approaches. Experiments also show that incorporating the network structure between genomic features effectively improves cancer survival prediction.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1134 - 1143
Number of pages10
JournalIEEE Journal of Biomedical and Health Informatics
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2024


  • Bioinformatics
  • Cancer
  • Convolutional neural networks
  • Gene expression
  • Genomics
  • graph convolutional network
  • machine learning
  • Predictive models
  • protein-protein interaction
  • Proteins
  • Survival analysis

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