Epigenetic Score Gauges Risk of Developing Anal Cancer

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – Epigenetic changes can distinguish people who may be at high risk of developing anal cancer, a new study has found.

Anal cancer, which is largely caused by the human papillomavirus, is becoming more common among women, men who have sex with men, and people with HIV. According to the US National Cancer Institute, there are some 1.8 new cases of anal cancer per 100,000 people every year, with 0.2 deaths per 100,000 people each year.

As methylation levels have been found to rise in HPV-infected women and are highest in those with cancer, researchers from Queen Mary University of London postulated that epigenetics changes might also occur in anal cancer. As they reported in Oncotarget, they found that epigenetic changes at two sites could portend whether a lesion would progress to cancer and could be used as a test to gauge risk.

“We thought this would require a complicated genomic signature involving hundreds of genes, so we were surprised that we could get such an accurate prediction from just two biomarker genes,” QMUL’s Attila Lorincz said in a statement. “That’s important because the expected cost of the test will be fairly low.”

Lorincz and his colleagues

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