An ontology for representing hematologic malignancies: The cancer cell ontology

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Background: Within the cancer domain, ontologies play an important role in the integration and annotation of data in order to support numerous biomedical tools and applications. This work seeks to leverage existing standards in immunophenotyping cell types found in hematologic malignancies to provide an ontological representation of them to aid in data annotation and analysis for patient data. Results: We have developed the Cancer Cell Ontology according to OBO Foundry principles as an extension of the Cell Ontology. We define classes in Cancer Cell Ontology by using a genus-differentia approach using logical axioms capturing the expression of cellular surface markers in order to represent types of hematologic malignancies. By adopting conventions used in the Cell Ontology, we have created human and computer-readable definitions for 300 classes of blood cancers, based on the EGIL classification system for leukemias, and relying upon additional classification approaches for multiple myelomas and other hematologic malignancies. Conclusion: We have demonstrated a proof of concept for leveraging the built-in logical axioms of the ontology in order to classify patient surface marker data into appropriate diagnostic categories. We plan to integrate our ontology into existing tools for flow cytometry data analysis to facilitate the automated diagnosis of hematologic malignancies.




Serra, L. M., Duncan, W. D., & Diehl, A. D. (2019). An ontology for representing hematologic malignancies: The cancer cell ontology. BMC Bioinformatics, 20.

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