A statistical approach for tracking clonal dynamics in cancer using longitudinal next-generation sequencing data
Vavoulis DV., Cutts A., Taylor JC., Schuh A.
Abstract Motivation Tumours are composed of distinct cancer cell populations (clones), which continuously adapt to their local micro-environment. Standard methods for clonal deconvolution seek to identify groups of mutations and estimate the prevalence of each group in the tumour, while considering its purity and copy number profile. These methods have been applied on cross-sectional data and on longitudinal data after discarding information on the timing of sample collection. Two key questions are how can we incorporate such information in our analyses and is there any benefit in doing so? Results We developed a clonal deconvolution method, which incorporates explicitly the temporal spacing of longitudinally sampled tumours. By merging a Dirichlet Process Mixture Model with Gaussian Process priors and using as input a sequence of several sparsely collected samples, our method can reconstruct the temporal profile of the abundance of any mutation cluster supported by the data as a continuous function of time. We benchmarked our method on whole genome, whole exome and targeted sequencing data from patients with chronic lymphocytic leukaemia, on liquid biopsy data from a patient with melanoma and on synthetic data and we found that incorporating information on the timing of tissue collection improves model performance, as long as data of sufficient volume and complexity are available for estimating free model parameters. Thus, our approach is particularly useful when collecting a relatively long sequence of tumour samples is feasible, as in liquid cancers (e.g. leukaemia) and liquid biopsies. Availability and implementation The statistical methodology presented in this paper is freely available at github.com/dvav/clonosGP. Supplementary information Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online.