Identifying epigenetic biomarkers of established prognostic factors and survival in a clinical cohort of individuals with oropharyngeal cancer

Ryan Langdon, Rebecca Richmond, Hannah R. Elliott, Tom Dudding, Nabila Kazmi, Chris Penfold, Kate Ingarfield, Karen Ho, Andrew Bretherick, Chris Haley, Yanni Zeng, Rosie M. Walker (+8 others)
2020 Clinical Epigenetics  
Smoking status, alcohol consumption and HPV infection (acquired through sexual activity) are the predominant risk factors for oropharyngeal cancer and are thought to alter the prognosis of the disease. Here, we conducted single-site and differentially methylated region (DMR) epigenome-wide association studies (EWAS) of these factors, in addition to ∼ 3-year survival, using Illumina Methylation EPIC DNA methylation profiles from whole blood in 409 individuals as part of the Head and Neck 5000
more » ... 5000) study. Overlapping sites between each factor and survival were then assessed using two-step Mendelian randomization to assess whether methylation at these positions causally affected survival. Using the MethylationEPIC array in an OPC dataset, we found novel CpG associations with smoking, alcohol consumption and ~ 3-year survival. We found no CpG associations below our multiple testing threshold associated with HPV16 E6 serological response (used as a proxy for HPV infection). CpG site associations below our multiple-testing threshold (PBonferroni < 0.05) for both a prognostic factor and survival were observed at four gene regions: SPEG (smoking), GFI1 (smoking), PPT2 (smoking) and KHDC3L (alcohol consumption). Evidence for a causal effect of DNA methylation on survival was only observed in the SPEG gene region (HR per SD increase in methylation score 1.28, 95% CI 1.14 to 1.43, P 2.12 × 10-05). Part of the effect of smoking on survival in those with oropharyngeal cancer may be mediated by methylation at the SPEG gene locus. Replication in data from independent datasets and data from HN5000 with longer follow-up times is needed to confirm these findings.
doi:10.1186/s13148-020-00870-0 pmid:32600451 pmcid:PMC7322918 fatcat:n7jvihcnkrhhpjuku572szr4vq