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J Mol Diagn. 2006 Nov;8(5):582-8.

CpG island methylator phenotype-low (CIMP-low) in colorectal cancer: possible associations with male sex and KRAS mutations.

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Department of Pathology, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, 75 Francis St., Boston, MA 02115, USA.


The CpG island methylator phenotype (CIMP or CIMP-high) with extensive promoter methylation seems to be a distinct epigenotype of colorectal cancer. However, no study has comprehensively examined features of colorectal cancer with less extensive promoter methylation (designated as "CIMP-low"). Using real-time polymerase chain reaction (MethyLight), we quantified DNA methylation in five CIMP-specific gene promoters [CACNA1G, CDKN2A (p16), CRABP1, MLH1, and NEUROG1] in 840 relatively unbiased, population-based colorectal cancer samples, obtained from two large prospective cohort studies. CIMP-low (defined as 1/5 to 3/5 methylated promoters) colorectal cancers were significantly more common among men (38 versus 30% in women, P = 0.01) and among KRAS-mutated tumors (44 versus 30% in KRAS/BRAF wild-type tumors, P = 0.0003; 19% in BRAF-mutated tumors, P < 0.0001). In addition, KRAS mutations were significantly more common in CIMP-low tumors (47%) than in CIMP-high tumors (with > or =4/5 methylated promoters, 12%, P < 0.0001) and CIMP-0 tumors (with 0/5 methylated promoters, 37%, P = 0.007). The associations of CIMP-low tumors with male sex and KRAS mutations still existed after tumors were stratified by microsatellite instability status. In conclusion, CIMP-low colorectal cancer is associated with male sex and KRAS mutations. The hypothesis that CIMP-low tumors are different from CIMP-high and CIMP-0 tumors needs to be tested further.

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