Background: The CpG island methylator phenotype (CIMP) with multiple promoter methylated loci has been observed in a subset of human colorectal cancer (CRC) cases. CIMP status, which is closely associated with specific clinicopathological and molecular characteristics, is considered a potential predictive biomarker for efficacy of cancer treatment. However, the relationship between the effect of standard chemotherapy, including cytotoxic drugs and anti-epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) antibodies, and CIMP status has not been elucidated. Methods: In 125 metastatic colorectal cancer (mCRC) patients, we investigated how clinical outcome of chemotherapy was related to CIMP status as detected by methylation-specific PCR (MSP) and to genetic status in five EGFR-related genes (KRAS, BRAF, PIK3CA, NRAS, and AKT1) as detected by direct sequencing. Results: CIMP-positive status was significantly associated with proximal tumor location and peritoneum metastasis (all P values <0.05). The progression-free survival of patients with CIMP-positive tumors receiving sequential therapy with FOLFOX as the first-line treatment followed by irinotecan-based therapy as the second-line treatment (median = 6.6 months) was inferior to that of such patients receiving the reverse sequence (median = 15.2 months; P = 0.043). Furthermore, CIMP-positive tumors showed higher mutation frequencies for the five EGFR-related genes (74.1 %) than the CIMP-negative tumors did (50.0 %). Among the KRAS wild-type tumors, CIMP-positive tumors were associated with a worse clinical outcome than CIMP-negative tumors following anti-EGFR antibody therapy. Conclusion: Sequential FOLFOX followed by an irinotecan-based regimen is unfavorable in patients with CIMP-positive tumors. High frequencies of mutation in EGFR-related genes in CIMP-positive tumors may cause the lower response to anti-EGFR antibody therapy seen in patients with wild-type KRAS and CIMP-positive tumors.
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