Early Detection and Risk Assessment Proceedings and Recommendations from the Workshop on Epigenetics in Cancer Prevention


Address for correspondence: Mukesh Verma, Ph.D., Program Director, Cancer Biomarkers Research Group, Division of Cancer Prevention, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Executive Plaza North, Room 3144, 6130 Executive Boulevard, Rockville, MD 20852-7346. Voice: 301-496-3893; fax: 301-402-8990. mv66j@nih.gov


Abstract: Recent advances in molecular biology that have provided a greater understanding of multistage carcinogenesis include the use of biomarkers of early detection and risk assessment. Prominent among such biomarkers are epigenetic changes. The field of epigenetics has seen a recent surge of interest among cancer researchers since alterations in DNA methylation have emerged as one of the most consistent molecular alterations in multiple neoplasms. Chromatin condensation, histone deacetylation, and promoter methylation are major steps in the epigenetic regulation of gene expression. Epigenetic changes may occur due to environmental factors, aging, and genomic imprinting. An important distinction between genetic and epigenetic alterations in cancer prevention is that the latter might be more easily reversed using therapeutic interventions. In the workshop the following areas of research were recognized for emphasis in future work: (1) basic epigenetic mechanisms in cancer need further investigation; (2) technology development in the area of epigenetics, such as high-throughput quantitative assays and increased sensitivity/specificity, is essential for the early detection and risk assessment of cancer; (3) the clinical application of epigenetic changes to cancer prevention and risk assessment needs further investigation. Further research will lead to the identification of new targets for cancer prevention.