The REASON score: an epigenetic and clinicopathologic score to predict risk of poor survival in patients with early stage oral squamous cell carcinoma

Viet, Chi T.; Yu, Gary; Asam, Kesava; Thomas, Carissa M.; Yoon, Angela J.; Wongworawat, Yan C.; Haghighiabyaneh, Mina; Kilkuts, Courtney A.; McGue, Caitlyn M.; Couey, Marcus A.; Callahan, Nicholas F.; Doan, Coleen; Walker, Paul C.; Nguyen, Khanh; Kidd, Stephanie C.; Lee, Steve C.; Grandhi, Anupama; Cheng, Allen C.; Patel, Ashish A.; Philipone, Elizabeth; Ricks, Olivia L.; Allen, Clint T.; Aouizerat, Bradley E.

Oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC) is a capricious cancer with poor survival rates, even for early-stage patients. There is a pressing need to develop more precise risk assessment methods to appropriately tailor clinical treatment. Genome-wide association studies have not produced a viable biomarker. However, these studies are limited by using heterogeneous cohorts, not focusing on methylation although OSCC is a heavily epigenetically-regulated cancer, and not combining molecular data with clinicopathologic data for risk prediction. In this study we focused on early-stage (I/II) OSCC and created a risk score called the REASON score, which combines clinicopathologic characteristics with a 12-gene methylation signature, to predict the risk of 5-year mortality.

We combined data from an internal cohort (n = 515) and The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) cohort (n = 58). We collected clinicopathologic data from both cohorts to derive the non-molecular portion of the REASON score. We then analyzed the TCGA cohort DNA methylation data to derive the molecular portion of the risk score.

5-year disease specific survival was 63% for the internal cohort and 86% for the TCGA cohort. The clinicopathologic features with the highest predictive ability among the two the cohorts were age, race, sex, tobacco use, alcohol use, histologic grade, stage, perineural invasion (PNI), lymphovascular invasion (LVI), and margin status. This panel of 10 non-molecular features predicted 5-year mortality risk with a concordance (c)-index = 0.67. Our molecular panel consisted of a 12-gene methylation signature (i.e., HORMAD2, MYLK, GPR133, SOX8, TRPA1, ABCA2, HGFAC, MCPH1, WDR86, CACNA1H, RNF216, CCNJL), which had the most significant differential methylation between patients who survived vs. died by 5 years. All 12 genes have already been linked to survival in other cancers. Of the genes, only SOX8 was previously associated with OSCC; our study was the first to link the remaining 11 genes to OSCC survival. The combined molecular and non-molecular panel formed the REASON score, which predicted risk of death with a c-index = 0.915.

The REASON score is a promising biomarker to predict risk of mortality in early-stage OSCC patients. Validation of the REASON score in a larger independent cohort is warranted.


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December 20, 2022