Epigenetic markers for noninvasive early detection of nasopharyngeal carcinoma by methylation-sensitive high resolution melting

Int J Cancer. 2015 Feb 15;136(4):E127-35. doi: 10.1002/ijc.29192. Epub 2014 Sep 19.


Nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) is a human malignancy that is closely associated with Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV). Early diagnosis of NPC will greatly improve the overall survival. However, current EBV DNA marker detection still lacks the predictive value to perform well in high-risk populations for early detection of NPC. Since aberrant promoter hypermethylation of tumor suppressor genes (TSGs) is widely considered to be an important epigenetic change in early carcinogenesis, this study identified a panel of methylation markers for early detection of NPC and also assessed the clinical usefulness of these markers with noninvasive plasma specimens instead of biopsies. MS-HRM assays were carried out to assess the methylation status of a selected panel of four TSGs (RASSF1A, WIF1, DAPK1 and RARβ2) in biopsies, NP brushings and cell-free plasma from NPC patients. High-risk and cancer-free groups were used as controls. DNA methylation panel showed higher sensitivity and specificity than EBV DNA marker in cell-free plasma from NPC patients at early Stages (I and II) and in addition to the EBV DNA marker, MS-HRM test for plasma and NP brushing DNA methylation significantly increased the detection rate at all NPC stages as well as local recurrence, using this selected four-gene panel (p<0.05). MS-HRM assay on a selected gene panel has great potential to become a noninvasive and complementary test for NPC early and recurrent detection in combination with the EBV DNA test to increase the sensitivity for NPC detection at an early stage.

Keywords: DNA methylation; MS-HRM; NPC; biomarker; early diagnosis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / genetics*
  • Carcinoma / blood
  • Carcinoma / diagnosis*
  • Carcinoma / genetics
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • DNA Methylation*
  • Early Detection of Cancer
  • Epigenesis, Genetic
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nasopharyngeal Carcinoma
  • Nasopharyngeal Neoplasms / blood
  • Nasopharyngeal Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Nasopharyngeal Neoplasms / genetics
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / diagnosis*
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / genetics
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic
  • ROC Curve
  • Transition Temperature


  • Biomarkers, Tumor