Methylated genes in breast cancer: Associations with clinical and histopathological features in a familial breast cancer cohort

Theresa Swift-Scanlan, Russell Vang, Amanda Blackford, Mary Jo Fackler, Saraswati Sukumar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Hundreds of hypermethylated genes have been described in breast cancer, yet the nature and contribution of these genes in their methylated state to overall risk and prognosis is under-characterized in non-sporadic breast cancers. We therefore compared associations of DNA methylation with tumor stage, hormone/growth receptor status and clinical outcomes in a familial breast cancer cohort. Because few previous methylation studies have considered the oncogenic or tumor suppressor properties of their gene sets, this functional status was included as part of our correlative analysis. Results: We found methylation of oncogenes was associated with better prognostic indicators, whereas tumor suppressor gene methylation was associated with a more severe phenotype in women that were either HER2+ or lymph node positive at diagnosis, and/or tended to recur or develop distant metastases. For example, the methylation of the tumor suppressor gene AP C was strongly associated with a specific subset of tumors that were both ER+ and HER2+, while methylation of the TWIST oncogene was associated with breast cancers that did not metastasize. Methods: This was a retrospective, hospital-based study of n = 99 archival breast tumors derived from women with a germline genetic BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation and/or familial breast cancer history. DNA methylation was quantified from formalin fixed, paraffin embedded tumors using the established protocol of quantitative multiplex-methylation specific PCR (QM-MSP). Non-parametric statistics were used to analyze candidate gene methylation in association with clinical outcomes. Conclusion: We report several novel, positive associations between percent methylation of the AP C, RASS F1A, TWIST, ERα, CDH1 and Cyclin D2 genes and key variables such as tumor stage, hormone and growth receptor status, and a history of recurrent or metastatic disease. Our data suggest the potential utility of parsing gene methylation by functional status and breast tumor subtype.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)853-865
Number of pages13
JournalCancer Biology and Therapy
Issue number10
StatePublished - May 15 2011


  • BRCA1
  • BRCA2
  • Breast cancer
  • DNA methylation
  • Epigenetic
  • Familial
  • Methylation specific PCR
  • Protective
  • QM-MSP
  • Risk

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Oncology
  • Pharmacology
  • Cancer Research


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