Hub genes in a pan-cancer co-expression network show potential for predicting drug responses

Francisco Azuaje*, Tony Kaoma Mukendi, Céline Jeanty, Petr V. Nazarov, Arnaud Muller, Sang Yoon Kim, Gunnar Dittmar, Anna Golebiewska, Simone P. Niclou

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Background: The topological analysis of networks extracted from different types of “omics” data is a useful strategy for characterizing biologically meaningful properties of the complex systems underlying these networks. In particular, the biological significance of highly connected genes in diverse molecular networks has been previously determined using data from several model organisms and phenotypes. Despite such insights, the predictive potential of candidate hubs in gene co-expression networks in the specific context of cancer-related drug experiments remains to be deeply investigated. The examination of such associations may offer opportunities for the accurate prediction of anticancer drug responses.  Methods: Here, we address this problem by: a) analyzing a co-expression network obtained from thousands of cancer cell lines, b) detecting significant network hubs, and c) assessing their capacity to predict drug sensitivity using data from thousands of drug experiments. We investigated the prediction capability of those genes using a multiple linear regression model, independent datasets, comparisons with other models and our own in vitro experiments. Results: These analyses led to the identification of 47 hub genes, which are implicated in a diverse range of cancer-relevant processes and pathways. Overall, encouraging agreements between predicted and observed drug sensitivities were observed in public datasets, as well as in our in vitro validations for four glioblastoma cell lines and four drugs. To facilitate further research, we share our hub-based drug sensitivity prediction model as an online tool. Conclusions: Our research shows that co-expression network hubs are biologically interesting and exhibit potential for predicting drug responses in vitro. These findings motivate further investigations about the relevance and application of our unbiased discovery approach in pre-clinical, translationally-oriented research.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1906
Publication statusPublished - 5 Mar 2019


  • Anticancer drugs
  • Biological networks
  • Co-expression networks
  • Drug sensitivity prediction
  • Network hubs
  • Systems biomedicine
  • Transational bioinformatics


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