Persistent variations of blood DNA methylation associated with treatment exposures and risk for cardiometabolic outcomes in long-term survivors of childhood cancer in the St. Jude Lifetime Cohort

Nan Song, Chia Wei Hsu, Haitao Pan, Yinan Zheng, Lifang Hou, Jin ah Sim, Zhenghong Li, Heather Mulder, John Easton, Emily Walker, Geoffrey Neale, Carmen L. Wilson, Kirsten K. Ness, Kevin R. Krull, Deo Kumar Srivastava, Yutaka Yasui, Jinghui Zhang, Melissa M. Hudson, Leslie L. Robison, I. Chan HuangZhaoming Wang*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Background: It is well-established that cancer treatment substantially increases the risk of long-term adverse health outcomes among childhood cancer survivors. However, there is limited research on the underlying mechanisms. To elucidate the pathophysiology and a possible causal pathway from treatment exposures to cardiometabolic conditions, we conducted epigenome-wide association studies (EWAS) to identify the DNA methylation (DNAm) sites associated with cancer treatment exposures and examined whether treatment-associated DNAm sites mediate associations between specific treatments and cardiometabolic conditions. Methods: We included 2052 survivors (median age 33.7 years) of European ancestry from the St. Jude Lifetime Cohort Study, a retrospective hospital-based study with prospective clinical follow-up. Cumulative doses of chemotherapy and region-specific radiation were abstracted from medical records. Seven cardiometabolic conditions were clinically assessed. DNAm profile was measured using MethylationEPIC BeadChip with blood-derived DNA. Results: By performing multiple treatment-specific EWAS, we identified 935 5′-cytosine-phosphate-guanine-3′ (CpG) sites mapped to 538 genes/regions associated with one or more cancer treatments at the epigenome-wide significance level (p < 9 × 10−8). Among the treatment-associated CpGs, 8 were associated with obesity, 63 with hypercholesterolemia, and 17 with hypertriglyceridemia (false discovery rate-adjusted p < 0.05). We observed substantial mediation by methylation at four independent CpGs (cg06963130, cg21922478, cg22976567, cg07403981) for the association between abdominal field radiotherapy (abdominal-RT) and risk of hypercholesterolemia (70.3%) and by methylation at three CpGs (cg19634849, cg13552692, cg09853238) for the association between abdominal-RT and hypertriglyceridemia (54.6%). In addition, three CpGs (cg26572901, cg12715065, cg21163477) partially mediated the association between brain-RT and obesity with a 32.9% mediation effect, and two CpGs mediated the association between corticosteroids and obesity (cg22351187, 14.2%) and between brain-RT and hypertriglyceridemia (cg13360224, 10.5%). Notably, several mediator CpGs reside in the proximity of well-established dyslipidemia genes: cg21922478 (ITGA1) and cg22976567 (LMNA). Conclusions: In childhood cancer survivors, cancer treatment exposures are associated with DNAm patterns present decades following the exposure. Treatment-associated DNAm sites may mediate the causal pathway from specific treatment exposures to certain cardiometabolic conditions, suggesting the utility of DNAm sites as risk predictors and potential mechanistic targets for future intervention studies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number53
JournalGenome Medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2021


  • Blood DNA methylation
  • Cancer treatment
  • Cardiometabolic conditions
  • Childhood cancer survivorship
  • Epigenome-wide association study
  • Mediation analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics(clinical)
  • Genetics
  • Molecular Medicine
  • Molecular Biology


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