Gene promoter hypermethylation in tumors and lymph nodes of stage I lung cancer patients.

Promoter hypermethylation is an important pathway for repression of gene transcription in cancer cells and a promising marker for cancer detection. We tested five gene promoters [CDKN2A (p16), O(6)-methylguanine-DNA-methyltransferase, glutathione S-transferase P1 (GSTP1), adenomatous polyposis coli (APC), and death-associated protein kinase (DAPK)] by real-time methylation-specific PCR in primary tumors from 90 stage I lung cancer patients for aberrant DNA methylation. We then used the presence of tumor methylation as a marker to investigate the presence of occult metastasis in corresponding histologically negative lymph nodes. Of the primary tumors, 73 of 90 (81%) displayed promoter hypermethylation in at least one of the genes studied: 17% (15 of 90) at p16 (CDKN2A); 16% (14 of 90) at O(6)-methylguanine-DNA-methyltransferase; 8% (7 of 90) at GSTP1; 72% (65 of 90) at APC; and 17% (15 of 90) at DAPK. Squamous histology was predictive of worse overall survival (P = 0.074, log-rank test). APC methylation and GSTP1 methylation in the primary tumor were both correlated with nonsquamous histology (P = 0.02 and P = 0.01 likelihood ratio respectively). The presence of both APC methylation and DAPK methylation in the primary tumor predicted a worse outcome, with 7 of 13 (54%) deaths in this group compared with 21 of 77 (27%) deaths in cases without both genes methylated (P = 0.229, log-rank test). The same methylation pattern was detected in DNA from at least one of the corresponding lymph nodes in 11 of 73 (15%) cases. Five of 11 (45%) patients with occult metastasis detected by methylation analysis have died compared with 17 of 62 (27%) patients with negative lymph nodes, although survival analysis did not reach statistical significance (P = 0.632, log-rank test). Promoter hypermethylation is common in lung cancer and represents a promising marker for the molecular staging of lung cancer patients. Although this study showed important trends, a larger prospective study is required to better understand the value of methylation analysis in detecting occult metastasis.

Ahrendt SA, Goodman S, Harden SV, Sidransky D, Tokumaru Y, Westra WH, Yang SC


Clin. Cancer Res., 2003, 9 (4)

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