DNA methylation aberrancies delineate clinically distinct subsets of colorectal cancer and provide novel targets for epigenetic therapies
Colorectal cancer (CRC) is a worldwide health concern with respect to both incidence and mortality, and as a result, CRC tumorigenesis, progression and metastasis have been heavily studied, especially with respect to identifying genetic, epigenetic, transcriptomic and proteomic profiles of disease. DNA methylation alterations are hallmarks of CRC, and epigenetic driver genes have been identified that are thought to be involved in early stages of tumorigenesis. Moreover, distinct CRC patient subgroups are organized based on DNA methylation profiles. CRC tumors displaying CpG island methylator phenotypes (CIMPs), defined as DNA hypermethylation at specific CpG islands in subsets of tumors, show high concordance with specific genetic alterations, disease risk factors and patient outcome. This review details the DNA methylation alterations in CRC, the significance of CIMP status, the development of treatments based on specific molecular profiles and the application of epigenetic therapies for CRC patient treatment.