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PLoS One. 2012;7(6):e39813. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0039813. Epub 2012 Jun 29.

Methylation markers of early-stage non-small cell lung cancer.

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  • 1Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology, University of Tartu, Tartu, Estonia.



Despite of intense research in early cancer detection, there is a lack of biomarkers for the reliable detection of malignant tumors, including non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). DNA methylation changes are common and relatively stable in various types of cancers, and may be used as diagnostic or prognostic biomarkers.


We performed DNA methylation profiling of samples from 48 patients with stage I NSCLC and 18 matching cancer-free lung samples using microarrays that cover the promoter regions of more than 14,500 genes. We correlated DNA methylation changes with gene expression levels and performed survival analysis.


We observed hypermethylation of 496 CpGs in 379 genes and hypomethylation of 373 CpGs in 335 genes in NSCLC. Compared to adenocarcinoma samples, squamous cell carcinoma samples had 263 CpGs in 223 hypermethylated genes and 513 CpGs in 436 hypomethylated genes. 378 of 869 (43.5%) CpG sites discriminating the NSCLC and control samples showed an inverse correlation between CpG site methylation and gene expression levels. As a result of a survival analysis, we found 10 CpGs in 10 genes, in which the methylation level differs in different survival groups.


We have identified a set of genes with altered methylation in NSCLC and found that a minority of them showed an inverse correlation with gene expression levels. We also found a set of genes that associated with the survival of the patients. These newly-identified marker candidates for the molecular screening of NSCLC will need further analysis in order to determine their clinical utility.

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