Aim and Objective: The number of anticancer drugs available currently is limited, and some of them have low treatment response rates. Moreover, developing a new drug for cancer therapy is labor intensive and sometimes cost prohibitive. Therefore, “repositioning” of known cancer treatment compounds can speed up the development time and potentially increase the response rate of cancer therapy. This study proposes a systems biology method for identifying new compound candidates for cancer treatment in two separate procedures.
Materials and Methods: First, a “gene set–compound” network was constructed by conducting gene set enrichment analysis on the expression profile of responses to a compound. Second, survival analyses were applied to gene expression profiles derived from four breast cancer patient cohorts to identify gene sets that are associated with cancer survival. A “cancer–functional gene set– compound” network was constructed, and candidate anticancer compounds were identified. Through the use of breast cancer as an example, 162 breast cancer survival-associated gene sets and 172 putative compounds were obtained.
Results: We demonstrated how to utilize the clinical relevance of previous studies through gene sets and then connect it to candidate compounds by using gene expression data from the Connectivity Map. Specifically, we chose a gene set derived from a stem cell study to demonstrate its association with breast cancer prognosis and discussed six new compounds that can increase the expression of the gene set after the treatment.
Conclusion: Our method can effectively identify compounds with a potential to be “repositioned” for cancer treatment according to their active mechanisms and their association with patients’ survival time.