A Biterm Topic Model for Sparse Mutation Data

Itay Sason, Yuexi Chen, Mark D.M. Leiserson, Roded Sharan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Mutational signature analysis promises to reveal the processes that shape cancer genomes for applications in diagnosis and therapy. However, most current methods are geared toward rich mutation data that has been extracted from whole-genome or whole-exome sequencing. Methods that process sparse mutation data typically found in practice are only in the earliest stages of development. In particular, we previously developed the Mix model that clusters samples to handle data sparsity. However, the Mix model had two hyper-parameters, including the number of signatures and the number of clusters, that were very costly to learn. Therefore, we devised a new method that was several orders-of-magnitude more efficient for handling sparse data, was based on mutation co-occurrences, and imitated word co-occurrence analyses of Twitter texts. We showed that the model produced significantly improved hyper-parameter estimates that led to higher likelihoods of discovering overlooked data and had better correspondence with known signatures.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1601
Issue number5
StatePublished - Mar 2023


  • biterm topic model
  • mutational signature
  • panel sequencing data

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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