Morphologically normal-appearing mammary epithelial cells obtained from high-risk women exhibit methylation silencing of INK4a/ARF

Gregory R. Bean, Andrew D. Bryson, Patrick G. Pilie, Vanessa Goldenberg, Joseph C. Baker, Catherine Ibarra, Danielle M.U. Brander, Carolyn Paisie, Natalie R. Case, Mona Gauthier, Paul A. Reynolds, Eric Dietze, Julie Ostrander, Victoria Scott, Lee G. Wilke, Lisa Yee, Bruce F. Kimler, Carol J. Fabian, Carola M. Zalles, Gloria BroadwaterThea D. Tlsty, Victoria L. Seewaldt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


Purpose: p16(INK4a) has been appreciated as a key regulator of cell cycle progression and senescence. Cultured human mammary epithelial cells that lack p16(INK4a) activity have been shown to exhibit premalignant phenotypes, such as telomeric dysfunction, centrosomal dysfunction, a sustained stress response, and, most recently, a dysregulation of chromatin remodeling and DNA methylation. These data suggest that cells that lack p16(INK4a) activity would be at high risk for breast cancer development and may exhibit an increased frequency of DNA methylation events in early cancer. Experimental Design: To test this hypothesis, the frequencies of INK4a/ARF promoter hypermethylation, as well as four additional selected loci, were tested in the initial random periareolar fine needle aspiration samples from 86 asymptomatic women at high risk for development of breast cancer, stratified using the Masood cytology index. Results: INK4a/ARF promoter hypermethylation was observed throughout all early stages of intraepithelial neoplasia and, importantly, in morphologically normal-appearing mammary epithelial cells; 29 of 86 subjects showed INK4a/ARF promoter hypermethylation in at least one breast. Importantly, INK4a/ARF promoter hypermethylation was not associated with atypia, and the frequency of hypermethylation did not increase with increasing Masood cytology score. The frequency of INK4a/ARF promoter hypermethylation was associated with the combined frequency of promoter hypermethylation of retinoic acid receptor-β2, estrogen receptor-α, and breast cancer-associated 1 genes (P = 0.001). Conclusions: Because INK4a/ARF promoter hypermethylation does not increase with age but increases with the frequency of other methylation events, we predict that INK4a/ARF promoter hypermethylation may serve as a marker of global methylation dysregulation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6834-6841
Number of pages8
JournalClinical Cancer Research
Issue number22
StatePublished - Nov 15 2007


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