Kaz AM, Wong CJ, Luo Y, Virgin JB, Washington MK, Willis JE, Leidner RS, Chak A, Grady WM. DNA methylation profiling in Barrett's esophagus and esophageal adenocarcinoma reveals unique methylation signatures and molecular subclasses. Epigenetics : official journal of the DNA Methylation Society. 2011 Dec;6(6). 1403-12. PMID: 22139570 [PubMed] PMCID: PMC3256330
Barrett's esophagus (BE) is a metaplastic process whereby the normal stratified, squamous esophageal epithelium is replaced by specialized intestinal epithelium. Barrett's is the only accepted precursor lesion for esophageal adenocarcinoma (EAC), a solid tumor that is rapidly increasing in incidence in western countries. BE evolves into EAC through intermediate steps that involve increasing degrees of dysplasia. Current histologic criteria are quite subjective and the clinical behavior of BE is highly variable and difficult to predict using these standards. It is widely believed that molecular alterations present in BE and EAC will provide more precise prognostic and predictive markers for these conditions than the current clinical and histologic features in use. In order to further define molecular alterations that can classify unique groups of BE and EAC, we utilized methylation microarrays to compare the global gene methylation status of a collection of normal squamous, BE, BE + high-grade dysplasia (HGD), and EAC cases. We found distinct global methylation signatures, as well as differential methylation of specific genes, that discriminated these histological groups. We also noted high and low methylation epigenotypes among the BE and EAC cases. Additional validation of those CpG sites that distinguished BE from BE + HGD and EAC may lead to the discovery of useful biomarkers with potential clinical applications in the diagnosis and prognosis of BE and EAC.