Background: Accumulating evidence indicates aberrant DNA methylation is involved in gastric tumourigenesis, suggesting it may be a useful clinical biomarker for the disease. The aim of this study was to consolidate and summarize published data on the potential of methylation in gastric cancer (GC) risk prediction, prognostication and prediction of treatment response.
Methods: Relevant studies were identified from PubMed using a systematic search approach. Results were summarized by meta-analysis. Mantel-Haenszel odds ratios were computed for each methylation event assuming the random-effects model.
Results: A review of 589 retrieved publications identified 415 relevant articles, including 143 case-control studies on gene methylation of 142 individual genes in GC clinical samples. A total of 77 genes were significantly differentially methylated between tumour and normal gastric tissue from GC subjects, of which data on 62 was derived from single studies. Methylation of 15, 4 and 7 genes in normal gastric tissue, plasma and serum respectively was significantly different in frequency between GC and non-cancer subjects. A prognostic significance was reported for 18 genes and predictive significance was reported for p16 methylation, although many inconsistent findings were also observed. No bias due to assay, use of fixed tissue or CpG sites analysed was detected, however a slight bias towards publication of positive findings was observed.
Conclusions: DNA methylation is a promising biomarker for GC risk prediction and prognostication. Further focused validation of candidate methylation markers in independent cohorts is required to develop its clinical potential.