In locally advanced rectal cancer a preoperative predictive biomarker is necessary to adjust treatment specifically for those patients expected to suffer relapse. We applied whole genome methylation CpG island array analyses to an initial set of patients (n=11) to identify differentially methylated regions (DMRs) that separate a good from a bad prognosis group. Using a quantitative high-resolution approach, candidate DMRs were first validated in a set of 61 patients (test set) and then confirmed DMRs were further validated in additional independent patient cohorts (n=71, n=42). We identified twenty highly discriminative DMRs and validated them in the test set using the MassARRAY technique. Ten DMRs could be confirmed which allowed separation into prognosis groups (p=0.0207, HR=4.09). The classifier was validated in two additional cohorts (n=71, p=0.0345, HR=3.57 and n=42, p=0.0113, HR=3.78). Interestingly, six of the ten DMRs represented regions close to the transcriptional start sites of genes which are also marked by the Polycomb Repressor Complex component EZH2. In conclusion we present a classifier comprising 10 DMRs which predicts patient prognosis with a high degree of accuracy. These data may now help to discriminate between patients that may respond better to standard treatments from those that may require alternative modalities.
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