Vol. 72, No. 2, 2011
Issue release date: October 2011
Free Access
Hum Hered 2011;72:85–97
Original Paper
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Power of Data Mining Methods to Detect Genetic Associations and Interactions

Molinaro A.M.a · Carriero N.b · Bjornson R.b · Hartge P.c · Rothman N.c · Chatterjee N.c
aDivision of Biostatistics, School of Public Health, and bDepartment of Computer Science, Yale University, New Haven, Conn., and cDivision of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Rockville, Md., USA
email Corresponding Author

 goto top of outline Key Words

  • Genetic associations
  • Power
  • Random forests
  • SNP
  • Variable importance measure

 goto top of outline Abstract

Background: Genetic association studies, thus far, have focused on the analysis of individual main effects of SNP markers. Nonetheless, there is a clear need for modeling epistasis or gene-gene interactions to better understand the biologic basis of existing associations. Tree-based methods have been widely studied as tools for building prediction models based on complex variable interactions. An understanding of the power of such methods for the discovery of genetic associations in the presence of complex interactions is of great importance. Here, we systematically evaluate the power of three leading algorithms: random forests (RF), Monte Carlo logic regression (MCLR), and multifactor dimensionality reduction (MDR). Methods: We use the algorithm-specific variable importance measures (VIMs) as statistics and employ permutation-based resampling to generate the null distribution and associated p values. The power of the three is assessed via simulation studies. Additionally, in a data analysis, we evaluate the associations between individual SNPs in pro-inflammatory and immunoregulatory genes and the risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Results: The power of RF is highest in all simulation models, that of MCLR is similar to RF in half, and that of MDR is consistently the lowest. Conclusions: Our study indicates that the power of RF VIMs is most reliable. However, in addition to tuning parameters, the power of RF is notably influenced by the type of variable (continuous vs. categorical) and the chosen VIM.

Copyright © 2011 S. Karger AG, Basel

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 goto top of outline Author Contacts

Annette M. Molinaro
Division of Biostatistics
School of Public Health, Yale University
New Haven, CT 06519 (USA)
E-Mail annette.molinaro@yale.edu

 goto top of outline Article Information

Received: January 6, 2011
Accepted: July 4, 2011
Published online: September 17, 2011
Number of Print Pages : 13
Number of Figures : 5, Number of Tables : 2, Number of References : 34
Additional supplementary material is available online - Number of Parts : 1

 goto top of outline Publication Details

Human Heredity (International Journal of Human and Medical Genetics)

Vol. 72, No. 2, Year 2011 (Cover Date: October 2011)

Journal Editor: Devoto M. (Philadelphia, Pa./Rome)
ISSN: 0001-5652 (Print), eISSN: 1423-0062 (Online)

For additional information: http://www.karger.com/HHE

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