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Dual-stage optimizer for systematic overestimation adjustment applied to multi-objective genetic algorithms for biomarker selection

Luca CattelaniVittorio Fortino
Feb 2024
The challenge in biomarker discovery using machine learning from omics data lies in the abundance of molecular features but scarcity of samples. Most feature selection methods in machine learning require evaluating various sets of features (models) to determine the most effective combination. This process, typically conducted using a validation dataset, involves testing different feature sets to optimize the model's performance. Evaluations have performance estimation error and when the selection involves many models the best ones are almost certainly overestimated. Biomarker identification with feature selection methods can be addressed as a multi-objective problem with trade-offs between predictive ability and parsimony in the number of features. Genetic algorithms are a popular tool for multi-objective optimization but they evolve numerous solutions thus are prone to overestimation. Methods have been proposed to reduce the overestimation after a model has already been selected in single-objective problems, but no algorithm existed capable of reducing the overestimation during the optimization, improving model selection, or applied in the more general multi-objective domain. We propose DOSA-MO, a novel multi-objective optimization wrapper algorithm that learns how the original estimation, its variance, and the feature set size of the solutions predict the overestimation. DOSA-MO adjusts the expectation of the performance during the optimization, improving the composition of the solution set. We verify that DOSA-MO improves the performance of a state-of-the-art genetic algorithm on left-out or external sample sets, when predicting cancer subtypes and/or patient overall survival, using three transcriptomics datasets for kidney and breast cancer.
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