Predicting gene promoter methylation in non-small-cell lung cancer by evaluating sputum and serum

S. A. Belinsky, M. J. Grimes, E. Casas, C. A. Stidley, W. A. Franklin, T. J. Bocklage, D. H. Johnson, J. H. Schiller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

99 Scopus citations


The use of 5-methylcytosine demethylating agents in conjunction with inhibitors of histone deacetylation may offer a new therapeutic strategy for lung cancer. Monitoring the efficacy of gene demethylating treatment directly within the tumour may be difficult due to tumour location. This study determined the positive and negative predictive values of sputum and serum for detecting gene methylation in primary lung cancer. A panel of eight genes was evaluated by comparing methylation detected in the primary tumour biopsy to serum and sputum obtained from 72 patients with Stage III lung cancer. The prevalence for methylation of the eight genes in sputum (21-43%) approximated to that seen in tumours, but was 0.7-4.3-fold greater than detected in serum. Sputum was superior to serum in classifying the methylation status of genes in the tumour biopsy. The positive predictive value of the top four genes (p16, DAPK, PAX5 β, and GATA5) was 44-72% with a negative predictive value for these genes ≥70%. The highest specificity was seen for the p16 gene, and this was associated with a odds ratio of six for methylation in the tumour when this gene was methylated in sputum. In contrast, for serum, the individual sensitivity for all genes was 6-27%. Evaluating the combined effect of methylation of at least one of the four most significant genes in sputum increased the positive predictive value to 86%. These studies demonstrate that sputum can be used effectively as a surrogate for tumour tissue to predict the methylation status of advanced lung cancer where biopsy is not feasible.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1278-1283
Number of pages6
JournalBritish journal of cancer
Issue number8
StatePublished - Apr 23 2007


  • Gene promoter methylation
  • Lung cancer
  • Serum
  • Sputum
  • Tumour

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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