Differentially methylated microRNAs in prediagnostic samples of subjects who developed breast cancer in the European Prospective Investigation into Nutrition and Cancer (EPIC-Italy) cohort
The crosstalk between microRNAs (miRNAs) and other epigenetic factors may lead to novel hypotheses about carcinogenesis identifying new targets for research. Because a single miRNA can regulate multiple downstream target genes, its altered expression may potentially be a sensitive biomarker to detect early malignant transformation and improve diagnosis and prognosis. In the current study, we tested the hypothesis that altered methylation of miRNA encoding genes, associated with deregulated
... th deregulated mature miRNA expression, may be related to dietary and lifestyle factors and may contribute to cancer development. In a case-control study nested in a prospective cohort (EPIC-Italy), we analysed DNA methylation levels of miRNA encoding genes (2191 CpG probes related to 517 genes) that are present in the Infinium Human Methylation450 BeadChip array in prediagnostic peripheral white blood cells of subjects who developed colorectal cancer (CRC, n = 159) or breast cancer (BC, n = 166) and matched subjects who remained clinically healthy. In the whole cohort, several differentially methylated miRNA genes were observed in association with age, sex, smoking habits and physical activity. Interestingly, in the case-control study, eight differentially methylated miRNAs were identified in subjects who went on to develop BC (miR-328, miR-675, miR-1307, miR-1286, miR-1275, miR-1910, miR-24-1 and miR-548a-1; all Bonferroni-adjusted P < 0.05). No significant associations were found with CRC. Assuming that altered methylation of miRNAs detectable in blood may be present before diagnosis, it may represent a biomarker for early detection or risk of cancer and may help to understand the cascade of events preceding tumour onset.