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Front Biosci. 2005 May 1;10:1897-931.

New anti-cancer strategies: epigenetic therapies and biomarkers.

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Medical Sciences, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN 47405, USA.


Epigenetics is the study of chromatin modifications that affect gene expression without altering DNA nucleotide sequences. This review highlights a prominent role for epigenetic therapies, particularly those that reverse aberrant DNA methylation and histone acetylation, in the potential treatment of cancer. Administration of such therapies to reverse epigenetic "silencing" of tumor suppressors, including genes involved in chemotherapy responses, could prove useful in the management of cancer patients. In this review, we summarize recent advances in the use of methyltransferase and histone deacetylase inhibitors and possible synergistic combinations of these to achieve maximal tumor suppressor gene re-expression. Moreover, when used in combination with conventional chemotherapeutic agents, epigenetic-based therapies may provide a means to resensitize drug-resistant tumors to established treatments. As specific, aberrant epigenetic modifications are frequently associated with distinct cancer types, and likely occur early in tumorigenesis, these have potential utility as biomarkers. Finally, future directions are addressed, including alternative epigenetic targets, gene-specific modifications, and the use of bioinformatics.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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