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Distinguishing between Normal and Cancer Cells Using Autoencoder Node Saliency

by   Ya Ju Fan, et al.
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

Gene expression profiles have been widely used to characterize patterns of cellular responses to diseases. As data becomes available, scalable learning toolkits become essential to processing large datasets using deep learning models to model complex biological processes. We present an autoencoder to capture nonlinear relationships recovered from gene expression profiles. The autoencoder is a nonlinear dimension reduction technique using an artificial neural network, which learns hidden representations of unlabeled data. We train the autoencoder on a large collection of tumor samples from the National Cancer Institute Genomic Data Commons, and obtain a generalized and unsupervised latent representation. We leverage a HPC-focused deep learning toolkit, Livermore Big Artificial Neural Network (LBANN) to efficiently parallelize the training algorithm, reducing computation times from several hours to a few minutes. With the trained autoencoder, we generate latent representations of a small dataset, containing pairs of normal and cancer cells of various tumor types. A novel measure called autoencoder node saliency (ANS) is introduced to identify the hidden nodes that best differentiate various pairs of cells. We compare our findings of the best classifying nodes with principal component analysis and the visualization of t-distributed stochastic neighbor embedding. We demonstrate that the autoencoder effectively extracts distinct gene features for multiple learning tasks in the dataset.


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