Diagnostic DNA Methylation Biomarkers for Renal Cell Carcinoma: A Systematic Review

Kim Lommen, Nathalie Vaes, Maureen J Aarts, Joep G van Roermund, Leo J Schouten, Egbert Oosterwijk, Veerle Melotte, Vivianne C Tjan-Heijnen, Manon van Engeland, Kim M Smits*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal(Systematic) Review article peer-review

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CONTEXT: The 5-yr survival of early-stage renal cell carcinoma (RCC) is approximately 93%, but once metastasised, the 5-yr survival plummets to 12%, indicating that early RCC detection is crucial to improvement in survival. DNA methylation biomarkers have been suggested to be of potential diagnostic value; however, their current state of clinical translation is unclear and a comprehensive overview is lacking.

OBJECTIVE: To systematically review and summarise all literature regarding diagnostic DNA methylation biomarkers for RCC.

EVIDENCE ACQUISITION: We performed a systematic literature review of PubMed, EMBASE, Medline, and Google Scholar up to January 2019, according to the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Diagnostic Test Accuracy Studies (PRISMA-DTA) guidelines. Included studies were scored according to the Standards for Reporting of Diagnostic Accuracy Studies (STARD) criteria. Forest plots were generated to summarise diagnostic performance of all biomarkers. Level of evidence (LoE) and potential risk of bias were determined for all included studies.

EVIDENCE SYNTHESIS: After selection, 19 articles reporting on 44 diagnostic DNA methylation biomarkers and 11 multimarker panels were included; however, only 15 biomarkers were independently validated. STARD scores varied from 4 to 13 out of 23 points, with a median of 10 points. Large variation in subgroups, methods, and primer locations was observed. None of the reported biomarkers exceeded LoE III, and the majority of studies reported inadequately.

CONCLUSIONS: None of the reported biomarkers exceeded LoE III, indicating their limited clinical utility. Moreover, study reproducibility and further development of these RCC biomarkers are greatly hampered by inadequate reporting.

PATIENT SUMMARY: In this report, we reviewed whether specific biomarkers could be used to diagnose the most common form of kidney cancer. We conclude that due to limited evidence and reporting inconsistencies, none of these biomarkers can be used in clinical practice, and further development towards clinical use is hindered.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)215-226
Number of pages12
JournalEuropean Urology Oncology
Issue number2
Early online date9 Aug 2019
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2021


  • Biomarkers
  • Diagnosis
  • DNA methylation
  • Kidney cancer
  • Renal cell carcinoma
  • Promoter CpG island&amp
  • nbsp
  • methylation
  • TCF21


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