Neural network models for leukaemia.
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Artificial neural networks (ANN) can detect complex non-linear relationships between independent and dependent variables. Properly trained ANNs have repeatedly demonstrated superior predictive accuracy to other predictive technologies when applied to non-linear systems. Currently there are no studies that have been carried out on predicting survival of leukaemia patients at all. The neural network prediction method adopted in this study aims to provide a robust and accurate method for predicting survival of leukaemia patients for both censored and uncensored patient data. The aim of this research was also to find out the effectiveness of neural networks in modelling leukaemia prognosis and to determine the factors that have the most influence. There is ongoing research into finding ways and means of extending the life span of diseased patients. There is great interest in identifying factors that will yield better predictions of survival for terminally ill leukaemia patients. Prognostic factors generally differ with the treatment of leukaemia. Clinicians face the problem of how to choose the appropriate treatment regime, therefore an analysis of prognostic factors that predict success or failure may identify patients who require an alternative approach of specialist or targeted treatment. Being able to predict an individual patient’s prognosis will enable clinicians to categorise them into the relevant high and low risk treatment groups for conventional treatment or allow for the patients to be incorporated into specialised treatment schedules and clinical trials if available. In this study there is believed to be relationship that exists between the results gained on diagnosis and the period of survival. A patient’s health status is dependent on various symptoms and the complexity of the medical condition is dependent on an individual’s biological system. This complexity allows for the application of artificial neural networks (ANN) in predicting outcomes in medical application, especially in prognosis prediction and survival rate. This thesis contains contributions to the development of neural network models for survival analysis of leukaemia patients. The feed forward back propagation algorithm (BPA) modified to the gradient descent BPA was identified for the training and building of the neural network for predicting survival of leukaemia patients. The prognostic factors that affect survival have also been determined by the neural networks. The comparisons of models were based on using combined groups of leukaemia patients and comparing them with individual groups of the sub-types of leukaemia, i.e. acute lymphoid leukaemia (ALL), acute myeloid leukaemia (AML), chronic myeloid leukaemia (CLL) and chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML). A combination of 38 variables was used in the development of the neural networks. The variables were age, race, sex, gender, and results of full blood counts, differential tests and flow cytometry. The survival period of patients was based on the diagnosis date and the date of treatment. Those patients who status of mortality was known as of October 2008 were considered to be uncensored and were used for the 2-year and 3-year case studies. The patients with unknown mortality were considered as censored patients and used for the censored case study. The patient data was processed into a coded system and used to build the neural networks for each data set. The choice of patient groups used for the model building was prompted by the availability of uncensored data for analysis. For the group of combined leukaemia patients and the sub-group CML-CLL, it is recommended that the 2-year neural network model be used. The main prognostic factors affecting leukaemia survival were found to be the patient’s age, the mean haemoglobin concentration, % neutrophils and the markers CD13, CD20 and CD56. The race group, platelet count, % monocytes and the markers CD3, CD4, CD34 and LC lambda were found to significantly affect the CML-CLL group of patients. For the ALL and AML groups the 3-year neural network models were favoured. Prognostic factors for the survival of ALL patients were their age, the mean corpuscular haemoglobin concentration, % blasts and the markers CD8 and CD22. For the AML group the important prognostic factors were the patient’s age, the mean corpuscular haemoglobin concentration, the % neutrophils, % lymphocytes, and the markers CD7 and CD34.