Background: Breast cancer is a complex disease with high prevalence in women, the molecular mechanisms of which are still unclear at present. Most transcriptomic studies on breast cancer focus on differential expression of each gene between tumor and the adjacent normal tissues, while the other perturbations induced by breast cancer including the gene regulation variations, the changes of gene modules and the pathways, which might be critical to the diagnosis, treatment and prognosis of breast cancer are more or less ignored.
Objective: We presented a complete process to study breast cancer from multiple perspectives, including differential expression analysis, constructing gene co-expression networks, modular differential connectivity analysis, differential gene connectivity analysis, gene function enrichment analysis key driver analysis. In addition, we prioritized the related anti-cancer drugs based on enrichment analysis between differential expression genes and drug perturbation signatures.
Methods: The RNA expression profiles of 1109 breast cancer tissue and 113 non-tumor tissues were downloaded from The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) database. Differential expression of RNAs was identified using the “DESeq2” bioconductor package in R, and gene co-expression networks were constructed using the weighted gene co-expression network analysis (WGCNA). To compare the module changes and gene co-expression variations between tumor and the adjacent normal tissues, modular differential connectivity (MDC) analysis and differential gene connectivity analysis (DGCA) were performed.
Results: Top differential genes like MMP11 and COL10A1 were known to be associated with breast cancer. And we found 23 modules in the tumor network had significantly different co-expression patterns. The top differential modules were enriched in Goterms related to breast cancer like MHC protein complex, leukocyte activation, regulation of defense response and so on. In addition, key genes like UBE2T driving the top differential modules were significantly correlated with the patients’ survival. Finally, we predicted some potential breast cancer drugs, such as Eribulin, Taxane, Cisplatin and Oxaliplatin.
Conclusion: As an indication, this framework might be useful in understanding the molecular pathogenesis of diseases like breast cancer and inferring useful drugs for personalized medication.