Cancers (Basel) 2021 May 27 [Link]

Giovanni Cugliari, Alessandra Allione, Alessia Russo, Chiara Catalano, Elisabetta Casalone, Simonetta Guarrera, Federica Grosso, Daniela Ferrante, Marika Sculco, Marta La Vecchia, Chiara Pirazzini, Roberta Libener, Dario Mirabelli, Corrado Magnani, Irma Dianzani, Giuseppe Matullo


Malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM) is a rare and aggressive neoplasm. Patients are usually diagnosed when current treatments have limited benefits, highlighting the need for noninvasive tests aimed at an MPM risk assessment tool that might improve life expectancy. Three hundred asbestos-exposed subjects (163 MPM cases and 137 cancer-free controls), from the same geographical region in Italy, were recruited. The evaluation of asbestos exposure was conducted considering the frequency, the duration and the intensity of occupational, environmental and domestic exposure. A genome-wide methylation array was performed to identify novel blood DNA methylation (DNAm) markers of MPM. Multiple regression analyses adjusting for potential confounding factors and interaction between asbestos exposure and DNAm on the MPM odds ratio were applied. Epigenome-wide analysis (EWAS) revealed 12 single-CpGs associated with the disease. Two of these showed high statistical power (99%) and effect size (>0.05) after false discovery rate (FDR) multiple comparison corrections: (i) cg03546163 in FKBP5, significantly hypomethylated in cases (Mean Difference in beta values (MD) = -0.09, 95% CI = -0.12|-0.06, p = 1.2 × 10-7), and (ii) cg06633438 in MLLT1, statistically hypermethylated in cases (MD = 0.07, 95% CI = 0.04|0.10, p = 1.0 × 10-6). Based on the interaction analysis, asbestos exposure and epigenetic profile together may improve MPM risk assessment. Above-median asbestos exposure and hypomethylation of cg03546163 in FKBP5 (OR = 20.84, 95% CI = 8.71|53.96, p = 5.5 × 10-11) and hypermethylation of cg06633438 in MLLT1 (OR = 11.71, 95% CI = 4.97|29.64, p = 5.9 × 10-8) genes compared to below-median asbestos exposure and hyper/hypomethylation of single-CpG DNAm, respectively. Receiver Operation Characteristics (ROC) for Case-Control Discrimination showed a significant increase in MPM discrimination when DNAm information was added in the model (baseline model, BM: asbestos exposure, age, gender and white blood cells); area under the curve, AUC = 0.75; BM + cg03546163 at FKBP5. AUC = 0.89, 2.1 × 10-7; BM + cg06633438 at MLLT1. AUC = 0.89, 6.3 × 10-8. Validation and replication procedures, considering independent sample size and a different DNAm analysis technique, confirmed the observed associations. Our results suggest the potential application of DNAm profiles in blood to develop noninvasive tests for MPM risk assessment in asbestos-exposed subjects.