the Human Cancer DNA Methylation Marker Atlas

Improving the clinical translation of cancer DNA methylation biomarkers through the creation of a centralized database of all published markers.


Scientists have been searching for DNA methylation biomarkers to improve the diagnosis and management of cancer for over a decade (Laird, 2003), but for various reasons (see Ioannidis et al., 2017; Munafo et al., 2017; van Gool et al., 2017) and despite all the resources that have been invested, translation of cancer biomarkers into routine clinical practice only rarely occurs (Poste, 2011; Kern, 2012). Our team recently published a paper in which we discuss this issue in detail for DNA methylation biomarkers (Koch et al., 2018).

In an attempt to address the so-called translational research valley of death (Butler, 2008), we are mobilizing an international team of scientists, scientific journals, academic institutions, funding agencies, private partners, biobanks and patient advocacy groups. Our goal is to improve the reliability, efficiency and translation of DNA methylation marker research.

To achieve our goal, we plan to build a FAIR database of all published cancer DNA methylation markers. Such a database would be a valuable resource for our field by itself, but we also aim to integrate it with existing biobanks and other infrastructure initiatives.

Collecting the information we need from the publications will be a challenging task. To automate the data submission in the future and to promote data ownership, we are working on a reporting standard for DNA methylation markers.


For all your general questions and comments, you can contact us at or @cancermatlas.

The atlas project is supported by a broad team of researchers and is lead by Manon van Engeland, Alexander Koch, Michel Dumontier and Wim Van Criekinge.