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Drug Discov Today. 2011 Jul;16(13-14):543-7. doi: 10.1016/j.drudis.2011.05.012. Epub 2011 Jun 1.

Chromatin modifying agents - the cutting edge of anticancer therapy.

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Epigenomic Medicine Laboratory, Baker IDI Heart & Diabetes Research Institute, 75 Commercial Road, Melbourne 3004, Australia.


Chromatin modifying compounds are emerging as the next generation of anticancer therapies. By altering gene expression they could be able to correct uncontrolled proliferation and, in certain cases, aberrant apoptotic pathways, which are hallmarks of malignant cells. The modulation of gene expression is regulated via chromatin remodelling processes that include DNA methylation and chromatin modifications. The identification of aberrant methylation of genes and dysregulated histone acetylation status in cancer cells provides a basis for novel epigenetic therapies. Currently available chromatin modifying agents, a group that includes DNA methyltransferase and histone deacetylase inhibitors, exert anticancer effects by reactivating tumour suppressor genes, inhibiting proliferation and inducing apoptosis. It is anticipated that massive parallel sequencing will identify new epigenetic targets for drug development.

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