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Br J Cancer. 2009 Feb 24;100(4):571-7. doi: 10.1038/sj.bjc.6604930.

The context and potential of epigenetics in oncology.

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The Breakthrough Toby Robins Breast Cancer Research Centre, The Institute of Cancer Research, 237 Fulham Road, London SW3 6JB, UK.


Cancer has long been known to be a disease caused by alterations in the genetic blueprint of cells. In the past decade it has become evident that epigenetic processes have a function, at least equally important, in neoplasia. Epigenetics describes the mechanisms that result in heritable alterations in gene expression profiles without an accompanying change in DNA sequence. Genetics and epigenetics intricately interact in the pathogenesis of cancer (Esteller, 2007). In this review, we paint a broad picture of current understanding of epigenetic changes in cancer cells and reflect on the immense clinical potential of emerging knowledge of epigenetics in the diagnosis, prognostic assessment, treatment, and screening of cancer.

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