Background A large number of epigenetic alterations has been found to be implicated in the etiology of gastric cancer. We have studied the DNA methylation status of 27 500 gene promoter regions in 24 gastric adenocarcinomas from a Norwegian cohort, and aimed at identifying the hypermethylated regions. We have compared our findings to the gene expression in the same tissue, and linked our results to prognosis and survival. Methods Biopsies from gastric adenocarcinomas and adjacent normal gastric mucosa were obtained from 24 patients following surgical resection of the tumor. Genome-wide DNA methylation profiling of the tumor and matched non-cancerous mucosa was performed. The results were compared to whole transcriptome cDNA microarray analysis of the same material. Results Most of the gene promoter regions in both types of tissue showed a low degree of methylation, however there was a small, but significant hypermethylation of the tumors. Hierarchical clustering showed separate grouping of the tumor and normal tissue. Hypermethylation of the promoter region of the GFRA3 gene showed a strong correlation to post-operative survival and several of the clinicopathological parameters, however no difference was found between the two main histological types of gastric cancer. There was only a modest correlation between the DNA methylation status and gene expression. Conclusions The different DNA methylation clusters of the tumors and normal tissue indicate that aberrant DNA methylation is a distinct feature of gastric cancer, although there is little difference in the overall, and low, methylation levels between the two tissue types. The GFRA3 promoter region showed marked hypermethylation in almost all tumors, and its correlation with survival and other clinicopathological parameters may have important prognostic significance.
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