Intron 4-5 hTERT DNA Hypermethylation in Merkel Cell Carcinoma: Frequency, Association with Other Clinico-pathological Features and Prognostic Relevance

Costantino Ricci, Luca Morandi, Francesca Ambrosi, Alberto Righi, Dino Gibertoni, Francesca Maletta, Claudio Agostinelli, Angelo Gianluca Corradini, Silvia Uccella, Silvia Asioli, Fausto Sessa, Stefano La Rosa, Mauro Giulio Papotti, Sofia Asioli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC) is an aggressive skin tumor with neuroendocrine differentiation, mainly affecting elderly population or immunocompromised individuals. As methylation of the human telomerase reverse transcriptase (mhTERT) has been shown to be a prognostic factor in different tumors, we investigated its role in MCC, in particular in intron 4-5 where rs10069690 has been mapped and recognized as a cancer susceptibility locus. DNA methylation analysis of hTERT gene was assessed retrospectively in a cohort of 69 MCC patients from the University of Bologna, University of Turin and University of Insubria. Overall mortality was evaluated with Kaplan-Meier curves and multivariable Royston-Parmar models. High levels of mhTERT (mhTERThigh) (HR = 2.500, p = 0.015) and p63 (HR = 2.659, p = 0.016) were the only two clinico-pathological features significantly associated with a higher overall mortality at the multivariate analysis. We did not find different levels of mhTERT between MCPyV (+) and (-) cases (21 vs 14, p = 0.554); furthermore, mhTERThigh was strongly associated with older age (80.5 vs 72 years, p = 0.026), no angioinvasion (40.7% vs 71.0%, p = 0.015), lower Ki67 (50 vs 70%, p = 0.005), and PD-L1 expressions in both tumor (0 vs 3%, p = 0.021) and immune cells (0 vs 10%, p = 0.002). mhTERT is a frequently involved epigenetic mechanism and a relevant prognostic factor in MCC. In addition, it belongs to the shared oncogenic pathways of MCC (MCPyV and UV-radiations) and it could be crucial, together with other epigenetic and genetic mechanisms as gene amplification, in determining the final levels of hTERT mRNA and telomerase activity in these patients.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEndocrine Pathology
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - Apr 28 2021

Keywords

  • HTERT
  • HTERT intron 4–5
  • Merkel cell carcinoma
  • Merkel cell polyomavirus
  • Methylation
  • Rs10069690
  • Telomerase

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