How DNA methylation will become a powerful tool for diagnosis and prognosis

Cancer: How DNA methylation will become a powerful tool for diagnosis and prognosis

In this article, we highlight three recent studies that showcase the power of methylation screening for the diagnosis and prognostic measurement of different types of cancers. 

Diagnosing cancer early significantly increases the chance of survival. It allows treatment to begin before the progression or spread of the disease has accelerated, when treatment success rate is at its highest.

DNA methylation as a diagnostic and prognostic tool

Screening for cancers can catch them at this early stage, and DNA methylation is becoming an increasingly important diagnostic marker that can inform on cancer status even before common disease symptoms appear. Changes to DNA methylation can be detected directly from a routine blood draw, as tumours will often shed DNA into the bloodstream that can be collected and analysed.

DNA methylation can also be used as a prognostic tool in individuals with known cancer to inform on disease progression and as a predictor of survival rate. This can help doctors decide on the best course of action for a patient and avoid harmful treatment options if they are unlikely to be effective. 

This technique could be a powerful tool for oncologists and healthcare professionals to deliver the best outcomes for their patients.

Recent advances in this area

  1. Study from Shandong University (Tag), China, explores hypomethylation of the glycine dehydrogenase promoter in peripheral blood mononuclear cells as a new diagnostic marker of hepatitis B virus-associated hepatocellular carcinoma
  2. Research from the Hangzhou Hospital of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Hangzhou, China, identifies a ‘novel DNA methylation signature to improve survival prediction of progression-free survival for testicular germ cell tumours’
  3. An investigation by researchers at the Erasmus MC Cancer Institute, Netherlands, sought to understand if methylated cell-free DNA sequencing (MeD-seq) of LpnPI digested fragments could identify early progression in metastatic renal cell carcinoma patients on watchful waiting 

How to measure DNA methylation efficiently

biomodal technology enables precise genetic and methylation analysis to deliver more information from a single workflow and can be performed with low DNA input volumes such as those obtained from cell-free DNA (for example, found in blood). Accurate and simultaneous epigenetic and genetic screening has the power to transform medicine, especially in oncology. Our former CSO, Joanna Holbrook describes our methodology and how to implement it in this Nature Portfolio blog. 

For deeper information, read our recent paper in Nature Biotechnology  

Cambridge Epigenetix is now biomodal