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Gut. 2007 Nov;56(11):1564-71. Epub 2007 Mar 5.

Molecular correlates with MGMT promoter methylation and silencing support CpG island methylator phenotype-low (CIMP-low) in colorectal cancer.

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  • 1Department of Medical Oncology, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Harvard Medical School, 75 Francis St, BWH Pathology, Boston, MA 02115, USA.



The CpG island methylator phenotype (CIMP or CIMP-high) with widespread promoter methylation is a distinct epigenetic phenotype in colorectal cancer. In contrast, a phenotype with less widespread promoter methylation (CIMP-low) has not been well characterised. O-6-methylguanine-DNA methyltransferase (MGMT) promoter methylation and silencing have been associated with G>A mutations and microsatellite instability-low (MSI-low).


To examine molecular correlates with MGMT methylation/silencing in colorectal cancer.


Utilising MethyLight technology, we quantified DNA methylation in MGMT and eight other markers (a CIMP-diagnostic panel; CACNA1G, CDKN2A (p16), CRABP1, IGF2, MLH1, NEUROG1, RUNX3 and SOCS1) in 920 population-based colorectal cancers.


Tumours with both MGMT methylation and loss were correlated positively with MSI-low (p = 0.02), CIMP-high (>or=6/8 methylated CIMP markers, p = 0.005), CIMP-low (1/8-5/8 methylated CIMP markers, p = 0.002, compared to CIMP-0 with 0/8 methylated markers), KRAS G>A mutation (p = 0.02), and inversely with 18q loss of heterozygosity (p = 0.0002). Tumours were classified into nine MSI/CIMP subtypes. Among the CIMP-low group, tumours with both MGMT methylation and loss were far more frequent in MSI-low tumours (67%, 12/18) than MSI-high tumours (5.6%, 1/18; p = 0.0003) and microsatellite stable (MSS) tumours (33%, 52/160; p = 0.008). However, no such relationship was observed among the CIMP-high or CIMP-0 groups.


The relationship between MGMT methylation/silencing and MSI-low is limited to only CIMP-low tumours, supporting the suggestion that CIMP-low in colorectal cancer may be a different molecular phenotype from CIMP-high and CIMP-0. Our data support a molecular difference between MSI-low and MSS in colorectal cancer, and a possible link between CIMP-low, MSI-low, MGMT methylation/loss and KRAS mutation.

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