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The role of epigenetic alterations in pancreatic cancer.

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Department of Pathology, The Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, The Sol Goldman Center for Pancreatic Cancer Research, 342 Cancer Research Building 2, 1550 Orleans St., Baltimore, MD 21231, USA.


The past several years have witnessed an explosive increase in our knowledge about epigenetic features in human cancers. It has become apparent that pancreatic cancer is an epigenetic disease, as it is a genetic disease, characterized by widespread and profound alterations in DNA methylation. The introduction of genome-wide screening techniques has accelerated the discovery of a growing list of genes with abnormal methylation patterns in pancreatic cancer, and some of these epigenetic events play a role in the neoplastic process. The detection and quantification of DNA methylation alterations in pancreatic juice is likely a promising tool for the diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. The potential reversibility of epigenetic changes in genes involved in tumor progression makes them attractive therapeutic targets, but the efficacy of epigenetic therapies in pancreatic cancer, such as the use of DNA methylation inhibitors, remains undetermined. In this review, we briefly summarize recent research findings in the field of pancreatic cancer epigenetics and discuss their biological and clinical implications.

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