On the challenges of predicting treatment response in Hodgkin’s Lymphoma using transcriptomic data

André Patrício, Rafael S. Costa, Rui Henriques

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Background: Despite the advancements in multiagent chemotherapy in the past years, up to 10% of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma (HL) cases are refractory to treatment and, after remission, patients experience an elevated risk of death from all causes. These complications are dependent on the treatment and therefore an increase in the prognostic accuracy of HL can help improve these outcomes and control treatment-related toxicity. Due to the low incidence of this cancer, there is a lack of works comprehensively assessing the predictability of treatment response, especially by resorting to machine learning (ML) advances and high-throughput technologies. Methods: We present a methodology for predicting treatment response after two courses of Adriamycin, Bleomycin, Vinblastine and Dacarbazine (ABVD) chemotherapy, through the analysis of gene expression profiles using state-of-the-art ML algorithms. We work with expression levels of tumor samples of Classical Hodgkin’s Lymphoma patients, obtained through the NanoString’s nCounter platform. The presented approach combines dimensionality reduction procedures and hyperparameter optimization of various elected classifiers to retrieve reference predictability levels of refractory response to ABVD treatment using the regulatory profile of diagnostic tumor samples. In addition, we propose a data transformation procedure to map the original data space into a more discriminative one using biclustering, where features correspond to discriminative putative regulatory modules.Results: Through an ensemble of feature selection procedures, we identify a set of 14 genes highly representative of the result of an fuorodeoxyglucose Positron Emission Tomography (FDG-PET) after two courses of ABVD chemotherapy. The proposed methodology further presents an increased performance against reference levels, with the proposed space transformation yielding improvements in the majority of the tested predictive models (e.g. Decision Trees show an improvement of 20pp in both precision and recall).Conclusions: Taken together, the results reveal improvements for predicting treatment response in HL disease by resorting to sophisticated statistical and ML principles. This work further consolidates the current hypothesis on the structural difficulty of this prognostic task, showing that there is still a considerable gap to be bridged for these technologies to reach the necessary maturity for clinical practice.
Original languageEnglish
Article number170
Number of pages13
JournalBMC Medical Genomics
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • Hodgkin’s lymphoma
  • Cancer
  • Machine learning
  • Gene expression
  • Data modeling
  • Discriminative patterns
  • Biclustering
  • Computational biology


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