A continuous-time Markov model approach for modeling myelodysplastic syndromes progression from cross-sectional data

G. Nicora, F. Moretti, E. Sauta, M. Della Porta, L. Malcovati, M. Cazzola, S. Quaglini, R. Bellazzi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The integration of both genomics and clinical data to model disease progression is now possible, thanks to the increasing availability of molecular patients’ profiles. This may lead to the definition of novel decision support tools, able to tailor therapeutic interventions on the basis of a “precise” patients’ risk stratification, given their health status evolution. However, longitudinal analysis requires long-term data collection and curation, which can be time demanding, expensive and sometimes unfeasible. Here we present a clinical decision support framework that combines the simulation of disease progression from cross-sectional data with a Markov model that exploits continuous-time transition probabilities derived from Cox regression. Trajectories between patients at different disease stages are stochastically built according to a measure of patient similarity, computed with a matrix tri-factorization technique. Such trajectories are seen as realizations drawn from the stochastic process driving the transitions between the disease stages. Eventually, Markov models applied to the resulting longitudinal dataset highlight potentially relevant clinical information. We applied our method to cross-sectional genomic and clinical data from a cohort of Myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) patients. MDS are heterogeneous clonal hematopoietic disorders whose patients are characterized by different risks of Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) development, defined by an international score. We computed patients’ trajectories across increasing and subsequent levels of risk of developing AML, and we applied a Cox model to the simulated longitudinal dataset to assess whether genomic characteristics could be associated with a higher or lower probability of disease progression. We then used the learned parameters of such Cox model to calculate the transition probabilities of a continuous-time Markov model that describes the patients’ evolution across stages. Our results are in most cases confirmed by previous studies, thus demonstrating that simulated longitudinal data represent a valuable resource to investigate disease progression of MDS patients.

Original languageEnglish
Article number103398
JournalJournal of Biomedical Informatics
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2020


  • Cox models
  • Markov Models
  • Myelodysplastic syndromes
  • Simulated longitudinal dataset

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computer Science Applications
  • Health Informatics

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