Evaluating liquid biopsies for methylomic profiling of prostate cancer

Background: Liquid biopsies offer significant potential for informing on cancer progression and therapeutic resistance via minimally invasive serial monitoring of genetic alterations. Although the cancer epigenome is a central driving force in most neoplasia, the accuracy of monitoring the tumor methylome using liquid biopsies remains relatively unknown. Objectives: to investigate how well two types of liquid biopsy (urine and blood) capture the prostate cancer methylome, and may thus serve as a non-invasive surrogate for studying the tumor epigenome. Methods: A cohort of four metastatic treatment naïve prostate cancer (PCa) patients was selected. Matched biopsy cores (tumor and histologically matched-normal), post-DRE, pre-biopsy urine, and peripheral blood plasma were available for each subject. DNA methylation was profiled utilizing the Infinium® MethylationEPIC BeadChip (Illumina) and analysed using the RnBeads software. Significantly (FDR adjusted P < 0.05) differentially methylated probes (DMPs) between tumor and MN were identified and examined in the liquids (done at a grouped and individual subject level). Results: DNA methylation analysis of urine and blood in men with metastatic PCa showed highly correlated patterns between the different liquid types (ρ = 0.93, P < 0.0001), with large contributions from non-tumor sources. DNA methylation profiles of liquids were more similar between subjects, than intra-individual liquid-tumor correlations. Overall, both urine and plasma are viable surrogates for tumor tissue biopsies, capturing up to 39.40% and 64.14% of tumor-specific methylation alterations, respectively. Conclusion: We conclude that both urine and blood plasma are easily accessible and sensitive biofluids for the study of PCa epigenomic alterations.