Cancer Epigenetics

Authors

  • Rodolphe Taby MD,

    Postdoctoral Fellow
    1. Department of Leukemia, The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX
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  • Jean-Pierre J. Issa MD

    Professor, Corresponding author
    1. Department of Leukemia, The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX
    • Department of Leukemia, The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, Unit 428, 1515 Holcombe Blvd., Houston, TX 77030
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  • DISCLOSURES: Dr. Issa is an American Cancer Society Clinical Research professor supported by a generous gift from the F. M. Kirby Foundation. Dr. Issa has also received research support from Celgene, Merck, and Eisai, and he has consultancies with Syndax and GlaxoSmithKline.

  • Available online at http://cajournal.org and http://cacancerjournal.org

Abstract

Epigenetics refers to stable alterations in gene expression with no underlying modifications in the genetic sequence and is best exemplified by differentiation, in which multiple cell types diverge physiologically despite a common genetic code. Interest in this area of science has grown over the past decades, especially since it was found to play a major role in physiologic phenomena such as embryogenesis, imprinting, and X chromosome inactivation, and in disease states such as cancer. The latter had been previously thought of as a disease with an exclusive genetic etiology. However, recent data have demonstrated that the complexity of human carcinogenesis cannot be accounted for by genetic alterations alone, but also involves epigenetic changes in processes such as DNA methylation, histone modifications, and microRNA expression. In turn, these molecular alterations lead to permanent changes in the expression of genes that regulate the neoplastic phenotype, such as cellular growth and invasiveness. Targeting epigenetic modifiers has been referred to as epigenetic therapy. The success of this approach in hematopoietic malignancies validates the importance of epigenetic alterations in cancer, not only at the therapeutic level but also with regard to prevention, diagnosis, risk stratification, and prognosis. CA Cancer J Clin 2010. © 2010 American Cancer Society, Inc.

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