Discovery, validation, and application of novel methylated DNA markers for detection of esophageal cancer in plasma

Yi Qin, Chung W. Wu, William R. Taylor, Tarek Sawas, Kelli N. Burger, Douglas W. Mahoney, Zhifu Sun, Tracy C. Yab, Graham P. Lidgard, Hatim T. Allawi, Navtej S. Buttar, Thomas C. Smyrk, Prasad G. Iyer, David A. Katzka, David A. Ahlquist, John B. Kisiel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Purpose: The burden of esophageal cancer continues to rise, and noninvasive screening tools are needed. Methylated DNA markers (MDM) assayed from plasma show promise in detection of other cancers. For esophageal cancer detection, we aimed to discover and validate MDMs in tissue, and determine their feasibility when assayed from plasma. Experimental Design: Whole-methylome sequencing was performed on DNA extracted from 37 tissues (28 EC; 9 normal esophagus) and 8 buffy coat samples. Top MDMs were validated by methylation specific PCR on tissue from 76 EC (41 adeno, 35 squamous cell) and 17 normal esophagus. Quantitative allele-specific real-time target and signal amplification was used to assay MDMs in plasma from 183 patients (85 EC, 98 controls). Recursive partitioning (rPART) identified MDM combinations predictive of esophageal cancer. Validation was performed in silico by bootstrapping. Results: From discovery, 23 candidate MDMs were selected for independent tissue validation; median area under the receiver operating curve (AUC) for individual MDMs was 0.93. Among 12 MDMs advanced to plasma testing, rPART modeling selected a 5 MDM panel (FER1L4, ZNF671, ST8SIA1, TBX15, ARHGEF4) which achieved an AUC of 0.93 (95% CI, 0.89–0.96) on best-fit and 0.81 (95% CI, 0.75–0.88) on cross-validation. At 91% specificity, the panel detected 74% of esophageal cancer overall, and 43%, 64%, 77%, and 92% of stages I, II, III, and IV, respectively. Discrimination was not affected by age, sex, smoking, or body mass index. Conclusions: Novel MDMs assayed from plasma detect esophageal cancer with moderate accuracy. Further optimization and clinical testing are warranted.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7396-7403
Number of pages8
JournalClinical Cancer Research
Issue number24
StatePublished - Dec 15 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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