We investigated the feasibility of detecting aberrant DNA methylation of some novel and known genes in the serum of lung cancer patients.
To determine the analytical sensitivity, we examined the tumor and the matched serum DNA for aberrant methylation of fifteen gene promoters from 10 patients with primary lung tumors by using Quantitative methylation specific PCR. We then tested this 15 gene set to identify the more useful DNA methylation changes in the serum of a limited number of lung cancer patients and controls. In an independent set, we tested the six most promising genes (APC, CDH1, MGMT, DCC, RASSF1A and AIM) for further elucidation of the diagnostic application of this panel of markers.
Promoter hypermethylation of at least one of the genes studied was detected in all 10 lung primary tumors. In majority of cases, aberrant methylation in serum DNA was accompanied by methylation in the matched tumor samples. In the independent set, using a single gene that had 100% specificity (DCC), 35.5% (95% CI 25%, 47%) of the 76 lung cancer patients were correctly identified. For patients without methylated DCC, addition of a logistic regression score that was based on the five remaining genes improved sensitivity from 35.5% to 75% (95% CI: 64%, 84%) but decreased the specificity from 100% to 73% (95% CI:54%, 88%).
This approach needs to be evaluated in a larger test set to determine the role of this gene set in early detection and surveillance of lung cancer.