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Epigenetic biomarkers of ageing are predictive of mortality risk in a longitudinal clinical cohort of individuals diagnosed with oropharyngeal cancer

Beynon, Rhona A., Ingle, Suzanne M., Langdon, Ryan, May, Margaret, Ness, Andy, Martin, Richard M., Suderman, Matthew, Ingarfield, Kate ORCID:, Marioni, Riccardo E., McCartney, Daniel L., Waterboer, Tim, Pawlita, Michael, Relton, Caroline, Smith, George Davey and Richmond, Rebecca C. 2022. Epigenetic biomarkers of ageing are predictive of mortality risk in a longitudinal clinical cohort of individuals diagnosed with oropharyngeal cancer. Clinical Epigenetics 14 , 1. 10.1186/s13148-021-01220-4

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Background Epigenetic clocks are biomarkers of ageing derived from DNA methylation levels at a subset of CpG sites. The difference between age predicted by these clocks and chronological age, termed “epigenetic age acceleration”, has been shown to predict age-related disease and mortality. We aimed to assess the prognostic value of epigenetic age acceleration and a DNA methylation-based mortality risk score with all-cause mortality in a prospective clinical cohort of individuals with head and neck cancer: Head and Neck 5000. We investigated two markers of intrinsic epigenetic age acceleration (IEAAHorvath and IEAAHannum), one marker of extrinsic epigenetic age acceleration (EEAA), one optimised to predict physiological dysregulation (AgeAccelPheno), one optimised to predict lifespan (AgeAccelGrim) and a DNA methylation-based predictor of mortality (ZhangScore). Cox regression models were first used to estimate adjusted hazard ratios (HR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) for associations of epigenetic age acceleration with all-cause mortality in people with oropharyngeal cancer (n = 408; 105 deaths). The added prognostic value of epigenetic markers compared to a clinical model including age, sex, TNM stage and HPV status was then evaluated. Results IEAAHannum and AgeAccelGrim were associated with mortality risk after adjustment for clinical and lifestyle factors (HRs per standard deviation [SD] increase in age acceleration = 1.30 [95% CI 1.07, 1.57; p = 0.007] and 1.40 [95% CI 1.06, 1.83; p = 0.016], respectively). There was weak evidence that the addition of AgeAccelGrim to the clinical model improved 3-year mortality prediction (area under the receiver operating characteristic curve: 0.80 vs. 0.77; p value for difference = 0.069). Conclusion In the setting of a large, clinical cohort of individuals with head and neck cancer, our study demonstrates the potential of epigenetic markers of ageing to enhance survival prediction in people with oropharyngeal cancer, beyond established prognostic factors. Our findings have potential uses in both clinical and non-clinical contexts: to aid treatment planning and improve patient stratification.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Published Online
Status: Published
Schools: Centre for Trials Research (CNTRR)
Additional Information: This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
Publisher: BioMed Central
ISSN: 1868-7075
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 27 April 2022
Date of Acceptance: 14 December 2021
Last Modified: 15 May 2023 12:24

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