DNA methylation profiling to assess pathogenicity of BRCA1 unclassified variants in breast cancer

Kirsty J. Flower, Natalie S. Shenker, Mona El-Bahrawy, David E. Goldgar, Michael T. Parsons, Amanda B. Spurdle, Joanna R. Morris, Robert Brown, James M. Flanagan*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)
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Germline pathogenic mutations in BRCA1 increase risk of developing breast cancer. Screening for mutations in BRCA1 frequently identifies sequence variants of unknown pathogenicity and recent work has aimed to develop methods for determining pathogenicity. We previously observed that tumor DNA methylation can differentiate BRCA1-mutated from BRCA1-wild type tumors. We hypothesized that we could predict pathogenicity of variants based on DNA methylation profiles of tumors that had arisen in carriers of unclassified variants. We selected 150 FFPE breast tumor DNA samples [47 BRCA1 pathogenic mutation carriers, 65 BRCAx (BRCA1-wild type), 38 BRCA1 test variants] and analyzed a subset (n=54) using the Illumina 450K methylation platform, using the remaining samples for bisulphite pyrosequencing validation. Three validated markers (BACH2, C8orf31, and LOC654342) were combined with sequence bioinformatics in a model to predict pathogenicity of 27 variants (independent test set).  Predictions were compared with standard multifactorial likelihood analysis. Prediction was consistent for c.5194-12G>A (IVS 19-12 G>A) (P>0.99); 13 variants were considered not pathogenic or likely not pathogenic using both approaches. We conclude that tumor DNA methylation data alone has potential to be used in prediction of BRCA1 variant pathogenicity but is not independent of estrogen receptor status and grade, which are used in current multifactorial models to predict pathogenicity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1121-1132
Number of pages12
JournalEpigenetics : official journal of the DNA Methylation Society
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 2 Dec 2015


  • BRCA1
  • breast cancer
  • epigenetic
  • methylation
  • variants

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cancer Research


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