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Int J Biochem Cell Biol. 2009 Jan;41(1):4-11. doi: 10.1016/j.biocel.2008.07.024. Epub 2008 Aug 14.

Cancer treatment of the future: inhibitors of histone methyltransferases.

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  • 1Albert-Ludwigs-Universit├Ąt Freiburg, Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Albertstr. 25, 79104 Freiburg, Germany.


Cancer in humans is the result of a multi-step process. This process often involves the activation of oncogenes and/or the inactivation of tumor suppressor genes. These two steps arise not only due to mutations, but can also be the result of a translocation or an altered transcription rate. One important mechanism is the occurrence of epigenetic alterations like promotor methylation (which may lead to tumor suppressor silencing) or decreased histone acetylation (which can result in the downregulation of proteins involved in apoptosis). Today, histone acetylation and DNA methylation are epigenetic modifications which have been linked closely to the pathology of human cancers and inhibitors of both enzyme classes for clinical use are at hand. In contrast, other fields of epigenetics still lack of similarly thorough knowledge. This is especially true for the group of histone methyltransferases and their inhibitors. Since connections between histone methylation patterns and cancer progression have been recognized, histone methyltransferases represent promising targets for future cancer treatment.

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