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Int J Cancer. 2010 Nov 1;127(9):2106-18. doi: 10.1002/ijc.25229.

MGMT activity, promoter methylation and immunohistochemistry of pretreatment and recurrent malignant gliomas: a comparative study on astrocytoma and glioblastoma.

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Institute of Toxicology, University Medical Center Mainz, D-55131 Mainz, Germany.


The DNA repair protein O(6)-methylguanine-DNA methyltransferase (MGMT) is a key player in tumor cell resistance. Promoter methylation, MGMT activity and immunohistochemistry are used for determining the MGMT status. However, it is unclear whether MGMT promoter methylation correlates with MGMT activity and whether MGMT promoter methylation of the pretreatment tumor predicts the MGMT status of recurrences. To address these questions, we determined MGMT activity promoter methylation and immunoreactivity in pretreatment and recurrent glioblastomas (GB, WHO Grade IV), and in astrocytomas (WHO Grade III). We show that GB that were promoter methylated display a range of 0-62 fmol/mg MGMT and tumors that were nonmethylated 0-423 fmol/mg protein. For astrocytomas, promoter-methylated samples displayed 0-28 fmol/mg and, nonmethylated samples, 23-107 fmol/mg. No correlation was found between the intensity of promoter methylation and MGMT activity. Given a threshold level of 30 fmol/mg of protein, we found a correlation between promoter methylation and no/low MGMT activity in 82.4% of the tumors. This high correlation level was only observed when tumors were excluded showing a hemimethylated promoter (20%). Therefore, classification of hemimethylated tumors remains questionable. Further, we show that 39.1% of pretreatment GB and 5.3% of recurrences were promoter methylated, which is in line with the observed increase of MGMT activity in recurrences. Although individual exceptions were found, the data show an overall correlation between promoter methylation and lack/low MGMT activity in GB and astrocytomas. We also show that promoter methylation assay is superior over immunohistochemistry in determining the MGMT status defined by a given MGMT activity level.

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