Improved prediction of complex diseases by common genetic markers: state of the art and further perspectives

Bent Müller*, Arndt Wilcke, Anne Laure Boulesteix, Jens Brauer, Eberhard Passarge, Johannes Boltze, Holger Kirsten

*Corresponding author for this work
10 Citations (Scopus)


Reliable risk assessment of frequent, but treatable diseases and disorders has considerable clinical and socio-economic relevance. However, as these conditions usually originate from a complex interplay between genetic and environmental factors, precise prediction remains a considerable challenge. The current progress in genotyping technology has resulted in a substantial increase of knowledge regarding the genetic basis of such diseases and disorders. Consequently, common genetic risk variants are increasingly being included in epidemiological models to improve risk prediction. This work reviews recent high-quality publications targeting the prediction of common complex diseases. To be included in this review, articles had to report both, numerical measures of prediction performance based on traditional (non-genetic) risk factors, as well as measures of prediction performance when adding common genetic variants to the model. Systematic PubMed-based search finally identified 55 eligible studies. These studies were compared with respect to the chosen approach and methodology as well as results and clinical impact. Phenotypes analysed included tumours, diabetes mellitus, and cardiovascular diseases. All studies applied one or more statistical measures reporting on calibration, discrimination, or reclassification to quantify the benefit of including SNPs, but differed substantially regarding the methodological details that were reported. Several examples for improved risk assessments by considering disease-related SNPs were identified. Although the add-on benefit of including SNP genotyping data was mostly moderate, the strategy can be of clinical relevance and may, when being paralleled by an even deeper understanding of disease-related genetics, further explain the development of enhanced predictive and diagnostic strategies for complex diseases.

Original languageEnglish
JournalHuman Genetics
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)259-272
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - 01.03.2016


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