Precision oncology uses genomic evidence to match patients with treatment but often fails to identify all patients who may respond. The transcriptome of these “hidden responders” may reveal responsive molecular states. We describe and evaluate a machine-learning approach to classify aberrant pathway activity in tumors, which may aid in hidden responder identification. The algorithm integrates RNA-seq, copy number, and mutations from 33 different cancer types across The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) PanCanAtlas project to predict aberrant molecular states in tumors. Applied to the Ras pathway, the method detects Ras activation across cancer types and identifies phenocopying variants. The model, trained on human tumors, can predict response to MEK inhibitors in wild-type Ras cell lines. We also present data that suggest that multiple hits in the Ras pathway confer increased Ras activity. The transcriptome is underused in precision oncology and, combined with machine learning, can aid in the identification of hidden responders. Way et al. develop a machine-learning approach using PanCanAtlas data to detect Ras activation in cancer. Integrating mutation, copy number, and expression data, the authors show that their method detects Ras-activating variants in tumors and sensitivity to MEK inhibitors in cell lines.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)172-180.e3
JournalCell Reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 3 2018


  • Gene expression
  • HRAS
  • KRAS
  • NF1
  • NRAS
  • Ras
  • TCGA
  • drug sensitivity
  • machine learning
  • pan-cancer


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