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Cancer Control. 2009 Jul;16(3):200-18.

Epigenetics in human melanoma.

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  • 1Basic and Translational Research Department, University of South Alabama, Mitchell Cancer Institute, Mobile, Alabama, USA.



Recent technological advances have allowed us to examine the human genome in greater detail than ever before. This has opened the door to an improved understanding of the gene expression patterns involved with cancer.


A review of the literature was performed to determine the role of epigenetic modifications in human melanoma. We focused the search on histone deacetylation, methylation of gene promoter regions, demethylation of CpG islands, and the role of microRNA. We examined the relationship between human melanoma epigenetics and their importance in tumorigenesis, tumor progression, and inhibition of metastasis. The development and clinical application of select pharmacologic agents are also discussed.


We identified several articles that have extensively studied the role of epigenetics in melanoma, further elucidating the complex processes involved in gene regulation and expression. Several new agents directly affect epigenetic mechanisms in melanoma, with divergent affects on the metastatic potential of melanoma.


Epigenetic mechanisms have emerged as having a central role in gene regulation of human melanoma, including the identification of several putative tumor suppressor genes and oncogenes. Further research will focus on the development of novel therapeutics that will likely target and alter such epigenetic changes.

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