Blood cell DNA methylation biomarkers in preclinical malignant pleural mesothelioma: The EPIC prospective cohort

International Journal of Cancer 2022 October 28 [Link]

Alessandra Allione, Clara Viberti, Ilaria Cotellessa, Chiara Catalano, Elisabetta Casalone, Giovanni Cugliari, Alessia Russo, Simonetta Guarrera, Dario Mirabelli, Carlotta Sacerdote, Marco Gentile, Fabian Eichelmann, Matthias B Schulze, Sophia Harlid, Anne Kirstine Eriksen, Anne Tjønneland, Martin Andersson, Martijn E T Dollé, Heleen Van Puyvelde, Elisabete Weiderpass, Miguel Rodriguez-Barranco, Antonio Agudo, Alicia K Heath, María-Dolores Chirlaque, Thérèse Truong, Dzevka Dragic, Gianluca Severi, Sabina Sieri, Torkjel M Sandanger, Eva Ardanaz, Paolo Vineis, Giuseppe Matullo


Malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM) is a rare and aggressive cancer mainly caused by asbestos exposure. Specific and sensitive noninvasive biomarkers may facilitate and enhance screening programs for the early detection of cancer. We investigated DNA methylation (DNAm) profiles in MPM prediagnostic blood samples in a case-control study nested in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and nutrition (EPIC) cohort, aiming to characterise DNAm biomarkers associated with MPM. From the EPIC cohort, we included samples from 135 participants who developed MPM during 20 years of follow-up and from 135 matched, cancer-free, controls. For the discovery phase we selected EPIC participants who developed MPM within 5 years from enrolment (n = 36) with matched controls. We identified nine differentially methylated CpGs, selected by 10-fold cross-validation and correlation analyses: cg25755428 (MRI1), cg20389709 (KLF11), cg23870316, cg13862711 (LHX6), cg06417478 (HOOK2), cg00667948, cg01879420 (AMD1), cg25317025 (RPL17) and cg06205333 (RAP1A). Receiver operating characteristic (ROC) analysis showed that the model including baseline characteristics (age, sex and PC1wbc) along with the nine MPM-related CpGs has a better predictive value for MPM occurrence than the baseline model alone, maintaining some performance also at more than 5 years before diagnosis (area under the curve [AUC] < 5 years = 0.89; AUC 5-10 years = 0.80; AUC >10 years = 0.75; baseline AUC range = 0.63-0.67). DNAm changes as noninvasive biomarkers in prediagnostic blood samples of MPM cases were investigated for the first time. Their application can improve the identification of asbestos-exposed individuals at higher MPM risk to possibly adopt more intensive monitoring for early disease identification.