A mixed-model approach for powerful testing of genetic associations with cancer risk incorporating tumor characteristics

GWAS for Polish Breast Cancer Study


Cancers are routinely classified into subtypes according to various features, including histopathological characteristics and molecular markers. Previous genome-wide association studies have reported heterogeneous associations between loci and cancer subtypes. However, it is not evident what is the optimal modeling strategy for handling correlated tumor features, missing data, and increased degrees-of-freedom in the underlying tests of associations. We propose to test for genetic associations using a mixed-effect two-stage polytomous model score test (MTOP). Through simulations across a range of realistic scenarios and data from the Polish Breast Cancer Study (PBCS), we show MTOP outperforms alternative methods for identifying heterogeneous associations between risk loci and tumor subtypes.