Human Papillomavirus DNA Methylation as a Biomarker for Cervical Precancer: Consistency across 12 Genotypes and Potential Impact on Management of HPV-Positive Women

Clin Cancer Res. 2018 May 1;24(9):2194-2202. doi: 10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-17-3251. Epub 2018 Feb 2.


Purpose: Human papillomavirus (HPV) DNA methylation testing is a promising triage option for women testing HPV positive during cervical cancer screening. However, the extent to which methylation indicates precancer for all 12 carcinogenic HPV types has not been evaluated.Experimental Design: In this nested case-control study, we tested up to 30 cases of precancer [cervical intraepithelial neoplasia grade 3 (CIN3)/adenocarcinoma in situ (AIS)] and 30 normal controls for each carcinogenic type (single infections with 16/18/31/33/35/39/45/51/52/56/58/59). Next-generation bisulfite sequencing was performed on CpG sites within the L1 and L2 genes. We calculated differences in methylation, ORs, and AUC. Using a fixed sensitivity of 80%, we evaluated the specificity and the risk of CIN3/AIS for best performing CpG sites, and compared the performance of an explorative multi-type methylation assay with current triage strategies.Results: Methylation was positively associated with CIN3/AIS across all 12 types. AUCs for the top sites ranged from 0.71 (HPV51 and HPV56) to 0.86 (HPV18). A combined 12-type methylation assay had the highest Youden index (0.46), compared with cytology (0.31) and a 5-type methylation assay, including only previously described types (0.26). The 12-type methylation assay had higher sensitivity (80% vs. 76.6%) and lower test positivity compared with cytology (38.5% vs. 48.7%). The risk of CIN3/AIS was highest for methylation positives and lowest for cytology or HPV16/18 positives.Conclusions: HPV DNA methylation is a general phenomenon marking the transition from HPV infection to precancer for all 12 carcinogenic types. Development of a combined multitype methylation assay may serve as a triage test for HPV-positive women. Clin Cancer Res; 24(9); 2194-202. ©2018 AACR.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Computational Biology / methods
  • CpG Islands
  • DNA Methylation*
  • DNA, Viral*
  • Female
  • Genotype
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Papillomaviridae / classification
  • Papillomaviridae / genetics*
  • Papillomavirus Infections / complications*
  • Papillomavirus Infections / diagnosis
  • Papillomavirus Infections / virology*
  • Precancerous Conditions / etiology*
  • Precancerous Conditions / pathology*
  • ROC Curve
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Young Adult


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • DNA, Viral