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Cluster analysis of multiplex ligation-dependent probe amplification data in choroidal melanoma.



To determine underlying correlations in multiplex ligation-dependent probe amplification (MLPA) data and their significance regarding survival following treatment of choroidal melanoma (CM).


MLPA data were available for 31 loci across four chromosomes (1p, 3, 6, and 8) in tumor material obtained from 602 patients with CM treated at the Liverpool Ocular Oncology Center (LOOC) between 1993 and 2012. Data representing chromosomes 3 and 8q were analyzed in depth since their association with CM patient survival is well-known. Unsupervised k-means cluster analysis was performed to detect latent structure in the data set. Principal component analysis (PCA) was also performed to determine the intrinsic dimensionality of the data. Survival analyses of the identified clusters were performed using Kaplan-Meier (KM) and log-rank statistical tests. Correlation with largest basal tumor diameter (LTD) was investigated.


Chromosome 3: A two-cluster (bimodal) solution was found in chromosome 3, characterized by centroids at unilaterally normal probe values and unilateral deletion. There was a large, significant difference in the survival characteristics of the two clusters (log-rank, p<0.001; 5-year survival: 80% versus 40%). Both clusters had a broad distribution in LTD, although larger tumors were characteristically in the poorer outcome group (Mann-Whitney, p<0.001). Threshold values of 0.85 for deletion and 1.15 for gain optimized the classification of the clusters. PCA showed that the first principal component (PC1) contained more than 80% of the data set variance and all of the bimodality, with uniform coefficients (0.28±0.03). Chromosome 8q: No clusters were found in chromosome 8q. Using a conventional threshold-based definition of 8q gain, and in conjunction with the chromosome 3 clusters, three prognostic groups were identified: chromosomes 3 and 8q both normal, either chromosome 3 or 8q abnormal, and both chromosomes 3 and 8q abnormal. KM analysis showed 5-year survival figures of approximately 97%, 80%, and 30% for these prognostic groups, respectively (log-rank, p<0.001). All MLPA probes within both chromosomes were significantly correlated with each other (Spearman, p<0.001).


Within chromosome 3, the strong correlation between the MLPA variables and the uniform coefficients from the PCA indicates a lack of evidence for a signature gene that might account for the bimodality we observed. We hypothesize that the two clusters we found correspond to binary underlying states of complete monosomy or disomy 3 and that these states are sampled by the complete ensemble of probes. Consequently, we would expect a similar pattern to emerge in higher-resolution MLPA data sets. LTD may be a significant confounding factor. Considering chromosome 8q, we found that chromosome 3 cluster membership and 8q gain as traditionally defined have an indistinguishable impact on patient outcome.

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