Date of Graduation


Document Type

Thesis (MS)

Program Affiliation

Biomedical Sciences

Degree Name

Masters of Science (MS)

Advisor/Committee Chair

Kim-Anh Do, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Veerabhadran Baladandayuthapani, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Keith. A. Baggerly, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Andrei S. Rodin, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Bradley M. Broom, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Kenneth Aldape, M.D.


Brain tumor is one of the most aggressive types of cancer in humans, with an estimated median survival time of 12 months and only 4% of the patients surviving more than 5 years after disease diagnosis. Until recently, brain tumor prognosis has been based only on clinical information such as tumor grade and patient age, but there are reports indicating that molecular profiling of gliomas can reveal subgroups of patients with distinct survival rates. We hypothesize that coupling molecular profiling of brain tumors with clinical information might improve predictions of patient survival time and, consequently, better guide future treatment decisions. In order to evaluate this hypothesis, the general goal of this research is to build models for survival prediction of glioma patients using DNA molecular profiles (U133 Affymetrix gene expression microarrays) along with clinical information. First, a predictive Random Forest model is built for binary outcomes (i.e. short vs. long-term survival) and a small subset of genes whose expression values can be used to predict survival time is selected. Following, a new statistical methodology is developed for predicting time-to-death outcomes using Bayesian ensemble trees. Due to a large heterogeneity observed within prognostic classes obtained by the Random Forest model, prediction can be improved by relating time-to-death with gene expression profile directly. We propose a Bayesian ensemble model for survival prediction which is appropriate for high-dimensional data such as gene expression data. Our approach is based on the ensemble "sum-of-trees" model which is flexible to incorporate additive and interaction effects between genes. We specify a fully Bayesian hierarchical approach and illustrate our methodology for the CPH, Weibull, and AFT survival models. We overcome the lack of conjugacy using a latent variable formulation to model the covariate effects which decreases computation time for model fitting. Also, our proposed models provides a model-free way to select important predictive prognostic markers based on controlling false discovery rates. We compare the performance of our methods with baseline reference survival methods and apply our methodology to an unpublished data set of brain tumor survival times and gene expression data, selecting genes potentially related to the development of the disease under study. A closing discussion compares results obtained by Random Forest and Bayesian ensemble methods under the biological/clinical perspectives and highlights the statistical advantages and disadvantages of the new methodology in the context of DNA microarray data analysis.


glioma, brain tumor, glioblastoma multiforme, survival analysis, tree-ensemble models, random forest, Bayesian Additive Regression Trees, Bayesian trees, Bayesian Inference



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