BackgroundNon-muscle-invasive bladder cancer (NMIBC) patients receive frequent monitoring because ≥ 70% will have recurrent disease. However, screening is invasive, expensive, and associated with significant morbidity making bladder cancer the most expensive cancer to treat per capita. There is an urgent need to expand the understanding of markers related to recurrence and survival outcomes of NMIBC.
Methods and resultsWe used the Illumina HumanMethylationEPIC array to measure peripheral blood DNA methylation profiles of NMIBC patients (N = 603) enrolled in a population-based cohort study in New Hampshire and applied cell type deconvolution to estimate immune cell-type proportions. Using Cox proportional hazard models, we identified that increasing CD4T and CD8T cell proportions were associated with a statistically significant decreased hazard of tumor recurrence or death (CD4T: HR = 0.98, 95% CI = 0.97-1.00; CD8T: HR = 0.97, 95% CI = 0.95-1.00), whereas increasing monocyte proportion and methylation-derived neutrophil-to-lymphocyte ratio (mdNLR) were associated with the increased hazard of tumor recurrence or death (monocyte: HR = 1.04, 95% CI = 1.00-1.07; mdNLR: HR = 1.12, 95% CI = 1.04-1.20). Then, using an epigenome-wide association study (EWAS) approach adjusting for age, sex, smoking status, BCG treatment status, and immune cell profiles, we identified 2528 CpGs associated with the hazard of tumor recurrence or death (P < 0.005). Among these CpGs, the 1572 were associated with an increased hazard and were significantly enriched in open sea regions; the 956 remaining CpGs were associated with a decreased hazard and were significantly enriched in enhancer regions and DNase hypersensitive sites.
ConclusionsOur results expand on the knowledge of immune profiles and methylation alteration associated with NMIBC outcomes and represent a first step toward the development of DNA methylation-based biomarkers of tumor recurrence.