Purpose: The current classification systems of myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS), including the International Prognostic Scoring System (IPSS), do not fully reflect the molecular heterogeneity of the disease. Molecular characterization may predict clinical outcome and help stratify patients for targeted therapies. Epigenetic therapy using decitabine, a DNA hypomethylating agent, is clinically effective for the treatment of MDS. Therefore, we investigated the association between DNA methylation and clinical outcome in MDS.
Patients and methods: We screened 24 patients with MDS for promoter CpG island methylation of 24 genes and identified aberrant hypermethylation at 10 genes. We then performed quantitative methylation analyses by bisulfite pyrosequencing of the identified genes in 317 patient samples from three independent studies and assessed relations between methylation and clinical outcome.
Results: In an initial training cohort of 89 patients with MDS, methylation frequencies of individual genes ranged from 7% to 70% and were highly concordant. Therefore, we defined a methylation z score based on all genes for each patient. We found that patients with higher levels of methylation, compared with patients with lower levels, had a shorter median overall survival (12.3 v 17.5 months, respectively; P = .04) and shorter median progression-free survival (6.4 v 14.9 months, respectively; P = .009). This methylation prognostic model was independent of age, sex, and IPSS group. Applied to two validation cohorts (228 patients), this model was confirmed as an independent prognostic predictor for survival. Although methylation at baseline did not correlate with clinical response to decitabine, we observed a significant correlation between reduced methylation over time and clinical responses.
Conclusion: DNA methylation predicts overall and progression-free survival in MDS.