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The adoption of microarray techniques in biological and medical research provides a new way for cancer diagnosis and treatment. In order to perform successful diagnosis and treatment of cancer, discovering and classifying cancer types correctly is essential. Class discovery is one of the most important tasks in cancer classification using biomolecular data. Most of the existing works adopt single clustering algorithms to perform class discovery from biomolecular data. However, single clustering algorithms have limitations, which include a lack of robustness, stability, and accuracy. In this paper, we propose a new cluster ensemble approach called knowledge based cluster ensemble (KCE) which incorporates the prior knowledge of the data sets into the cluster ensemble framework. Specifically, KCE represents the prior knowledge of a data set in the form of pairwise constraints. Then, the spectral clustering algorithm (SC) is adopted to generate a set of clustering solutions. Next, KCE transforms pairwise constraints into confidence factors for these clustering solutions. After that, a consensus matrix is constructed by considering all the clustering solutions and their corresponding confidence factors. The final clustering result is obtained by partitioning the consensus matrix. Comparison with single clustering algorithms and conventional cluster ensemble approaches, knowledge based cluster ensemble approaches are more robust, stable and accurate. The experiments on cancer data sets show that: 1) KCE works well on these data sets; 2) KCE not only outperforms most of the state-of-the-art single clustering algorithms, but also outperforms most of the state-of-the-art cluster ensemble approaches.