Methylation profiling of human cancers in blood: molecular monitoring and prognostication (review)

Int J Oncol. 2001 Dec;19(6):1319-24.


Cancer is a polygenetic and polyepigenetic disease. Circulating tumor cells in peripheral blood have been demonstrated to reflect the biological characteristics of tumors including the potential of metastasis development and tumor recurrence. Aberrant promoter methylation has emergingly become a fundamental molecular abnormality leading to transcriptional silencing of tumor suppressor genes, DNA repair genes and metastasis inhibitor genes, and is linked to the predisposition of genetic alterations of other cancer-associated genes. This epigenetic inheritance has significant biological implications for cancer progression and metastasis formation. Of significance, DNA hypermethylation of multiple genes successfully detected in circulating tumor cells from cancer patients may prove valuable for disease monitoring. A number of epigenetic markers may feasibly enable the detection of circulating tumor cells from patients with different cancer types. The prognostic and therapeutic implications of aberrant DNA methylation could eventually bring forth improved outcome of cancer patients. A growing body of evidence and future advances in understanding cancer epigenetics may fuel us to monitor and treat cancers in alternative ways.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • DNA Methylation*
  • Disease Progression
  • Forecasting
  • Gene Silencing*
  • Humans
  • Monitoring, Physiologic
  • Neoplasms / blood*
  • Neoplasms / genetics
  • Neoplastic Cells, Circulating / metabolism
  • Prognosis
  • Transcription, Genetic