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Clinical Epigenetics


Geisel School of Medicine


Background: Examining immunity-related DNA methylation alterations in blood could help elucidate the role of the immune response in lung cancer etiology and aid in discovering factors that are key to lung cancer development and progression. In a nested, matched case–control study, we estimated methylation-derived NLR (mdNLR) and quantified DNA methylation levels at loci previously linked with circulating concentrations of C-reactive protein (CRP). We examined associations between these measures and lung cancer risk and survival. Results: Using conditional logistic regression and further adjusting for BMI, batch effects, and a smoking-based methylation score, we observed a 47% increased risk of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) for one standard deviation (SD) increase in mdNLR (n = 150 pairs; OR: 1.47, 95% CI 1.08, 2.02). Using a similar model, the estimated CRP Scores were inversely associated with risk of NSCLC (e.g., Score 1 OR: 0.57, 95% CI: 0.40, 0.81). Using Cox proportional hazards models adjusting for age, sex, smoking status, methylation-predicted pack-years, BMI, batch effect, and stage, we observed a 28% increased risk of dying from lung cancer (n = 145 deaths in 205 cases; HR: 1.28, 95% CI: 1.09, 1.50) for one SD increase in mdNLR. Conclusions: Our study demonstrates that immunity status measured with DNA methylation markers is associated with lung cancer a decade or more prior to cancer diagnosis. A better understanding of immunity-associated methylation-based biomarkers in lung cancer development could provide insight into critical pathways.



Original Citation

Zhao, N., Ruan, M., Koestler, D.C. et al. Methylation-derived inflammatory measures and lung cancer risk and survival. Clin Epigenet 13, 222 (2021).