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Int J Clin Exp Pathol. 2009;2(1):21-33. Epub 2008 Apr 20.

Reversibility of aberrant global DNA and estrogen receptor-alpha gene methylation distinguishes colorectal precancer from cancer.

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1
Department of Pathology, The Ohio State University Columbus, OH 43210, USA.

Abstract

Alterations in the global methylation of DNA and in specific regulatory genes are two epigenetic alterations found in cancer. However, the significance of epigenetic changes for diagnosis and/or prognosis of colorectal cancer have not been established, although it has been extensively investigated. Recently we have identified a new type of cancer cell called precancerous stem cells (pCSCs) and proposed that cancer may arise from a lengthy development process of tumor initiating cells (TICs) --> pCSCs --> cancer stem cells (CSCs) --> cancer, which is in parallel to histological changes of hyperplasia (TICs) --> precancer (pCSCs) --> carcinoma (CSCs/cancer cells), accompanied by clonal evolutionary epigenetic and genetic alterations. In this study, we investigated whether aberrant DNA methylation can be used as a biomarker for the differentiation between premalignant and malignant lesions in the colorectum. The profile of global DNA and estrogen receptor (ER)-alpha gene methylation during cancer development was determined by analysis of 5-methylcytosine (5-MeC) using immunohistochemical (IHC) staining, dot blot analysis or a quantitative gene methylation assay (QGMA). Herein we show that global DNA hypomethylation and ER-alpha gene hypermethylation are progressively enhanced from hyperplastic polyps (HPs) --> adenomatous polyps (APs) --> adenomatous carcinoma (AdCa). The aberrant methylation can be completely reversed in APs, but not in AdCa by a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) celecoxib, which is a selective inhibitor of cyclooxygenase-2 (Cox-2), suggesting that the epigenetic alterations between colorectal precancer (AP) and cancer (AdCa) are fundamentally different in response to anti-cancer therapy. In normal colorectal mucosa, while global DNA methylation was not affected by aging, ER-alpha gene methylation was significantly increased with aging. However, this increase did not reach the level observed in colorectal APs. Taken together, reversibility of aberrant global DNA and ER-alpha gene methylation distinguishes colorectal precancer from cancer.

KEYWORDS:

DNA methylation; Precancer; cancer progression; colorectal cancer; epigenetic; estrogen receptor-α; nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs; tumor initiation

PMID:
18830381
PMCID:
PMC2491387
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