Over-expression of DNMT3A predicts the risk of recurrent vulvar squamous cell carcinomas.

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  • Merlin Pereira
  • Naheema Gordon
  • Ciaran Woodman
  • Raji Ganesan



Cancer initiation and progression has been linked to aberrant expression of the DNA methyltransferases (DNMT), the enzymes which establish and maintain DNA methylation patterns throughout the genome. In this study, we investigated if DNMT expression in vulvar squamous cell carcinomas (VSCC) was related to clinical outcome.


DNMT1, DNMT3A and DNMT3B expression was measured in a subset of cases drawn from a cohort of consecutive women treated for primary VSCC at the Pan Birmingham Gynaecological Cancer Centre between 2001 and 2008. Univariable and multivariable competing risk modelling was performed to identify whether DNMT expression was associated with local disease recurrence or disease morbidity.


Over-expression of DNMT3A in the invasive component of the tumour was seen in 44% of tumours and was associated with an increased risk of local vulvar recurrence (LVR) (HR=4.51, p=0.012). This risk was found to increase further after adjustment for disease stage (HR=6.00, p=0.003) and groin node metastasis (HR=4.81, p=0.008). Over-expression of DNMT3B was associated with an increased risk of LVR (HR=5.69 p=0.03), however this ceased to be significant after adjustment for groin node metastasis. In a subset analysis, over-expression of DNMT3A was found to be significantly more common in VSCCs that stained negative for CDKN2A.


These observations are consistent with the possibility that epigenetic changes contribute to vulvar neoplasia and DNMT3A over-expression may be useful in predicting local disease recurrence.


Original languageEnglish
JournalGynecologic oncology
Early online date9 Sep 2016
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 9 Sep 2016


  • Vulvar cancer , DNA methylation , Human papillomavirus (HPV) , DNMT expression cancer