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Mol Cancer. 2008 Oct 23;7:81. doi: 10.1186/1476-4598-7-81.

DNA methylation-based biomarkers for early detection of non-small cell lung cancer: an update.

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Departments of Surgery and of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Keck School of Medicine, Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA 90089-9176, USA.


Lung cancer is the number one cancer killer in the United States. This disease is clinically divided into two sub-types, small cell lung cancer, (10-15% of lung cancer cases), and non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC; 85-90% of cases). Early detection of NSCLC, which is the more common and less aggressive of the two sub-types, has the highest potential for saving lives. As yet, no routine screening method that enables early detection exists, and this is a key factor in the high mortality rate of this disease. Imaging and cytology-based screening strategies have been employed for early detection, and while some are sensitive, none have been demonstrated to reduce lung cancer mortality. However, mortality might be reduced by developing specific molecular markers that can complement imaging techniques. DNA methylation has emerged as a highly promising biomarker and is being actively studied in multiple cancers. The analysis of DNA methylation-based biomarkers is rapidly advancing, and a large number of potential biomarkers have been identified. Here we present a detailed review of the literature, focusing on DNA methylation-based markers developed using primary NSCLC tissue. Viable markers for clinical diagnosis must be detectable in 'remote media' such as blood, sputum, bronchoalveolar lavage, or even exhaled breath condensate. We discuss progress on their detection in such media and the sensitivity and specificity of the molecular marker panels identified to date. Lastly, we look to future advancements that will be made possible with the interrogation of the epigenome.

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