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Lung cancer and DNA methylation

25 September 2019

New research published in the International Journal of Epidemiology examines the association of peripheral blood methylation with lung cancer risk. 

ICEP researchers Thomas Battram and Rebecca Richmond are joint first authors of the study. 

Lung cancer is the most common cause of cancer-related death, and DNA methylation changes in peripheral blood have recently been identified in relation to lung cancer risk. The study set out to evaluate whether or not these methylation changes mediate part of the effect of smoking on lung cancer. 

The researchers began by performing a meta-analysis of four epigenome-wide assocation studies (EWAS) of lung cancer, thus identifying sixteen CpG sites. Genetic instruments were identified for fourteen of these. Next, the researchers carried out a two-sample Mendelian randomisation (MR) analysis to evaluate any possible causal role of methylation at these sites on lung cancer development. 

In contrast to findings from previous studies, the MR results provide little evidence that any of the sites examined are causally linked to lung cancer. This suggests that targetting the CpG sites identified in the blood in the development of lung cancer is unlikely to lead to effective treatments for the disease. 

Link to paper here.


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