Small sample sizes used in previous studies result in a lack of overlap between the reported gene signatures for prediction of chemotherapy response. Although morphologic features, especially tumor nuclear morphology, are important for cancer grading, little research has been reported on quantitatively correlating cellular morphology with chemotherapy response, especially in a large data set. In this study, we have used a large population of patients to identify molecular and morphologic signatures associated with chemotherapy response in serous ovarian carcinoma.
A gene expression model that predicts response to chemotherapy is developed and validated using a large-scale data set consisting of 493 samples from The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) and 244 samples from an Australian report. An identified 227-gene signature achieves an overall predictive accuracy of greater than 85% with a sensitivity of approximately 95% and specificity of approximately 70%. The gene signature significantly distinguishes between patients with unfavorable versus favorable prognosis, when applied to either an independent data set (P = 0.04) or an external validation set (P<0.0001). In parallel, we present the production of a tumor nuclear image profile generated from 253 sample slides by characterizing patients with nuclear features (such as size, elongation, and roundness) in incremental bins, and we identify a morphologic signature that demonstrates a strong association with chemotherapy response in serous ovarian carcinoma.
A gene signature discovered on a large data set provides robustness in accurately predicting chemotherapy response in serous ovarian carcinoma. The combination of the molecular and morphologic signatures yields a new understanding of potential mechanisms involved in drug resistance.