DNA hypermethylation is common in colon cancer. Previously, we have shown that methylation of WNT target genes predicts poor prognosis in stage II colon cancer. The primary objective of this study was to assess whether pre-operative treatment with decitabine can decrease methylation and increase the expression of WNT target genes APCDD1, AXIN2 and DKK1 in colon cancer patients. A clinical study was conducted, investigating these potential effects of decitabine in colon cancer patients (DECO). Patients were treated two times with 25 mg/m2 decitabine before surgery. Methylation and expression of LINE1 and WNT target genes (primary outcome) and expression of endogenous retroviral genes (secondary outcome) were analysed in pre-and post-treatment tumour samples using pyrosequencing and rt-PCR. Ten patients were treated with decitabine and eighteen patients were used as controls. Decitabine treatment only marginally decreased LINE1 methylation. More importantly, no differences in methylation or expression of WNT target or endogenous retroviral genes were observed. Due to the lack of an effect on primary and secondary outcomes, the study was prematurely closed. In conclusion, pre-operative treatment with decitabine is safe, but with the current dosing, the primary objective, increased WNT target gene expression, cannot be achieved.
Original languageEnglish
Article number2357
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 2 May 2021


  • Clinical translation study
  • Colon cancer
  • DNA methylation
  • Decitabine

Cite this