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Adv Exp Med Biol. 2011;720:91-104. doi: 10.1007/978-1-4614-0254-1_8.

Role of epigenetics in cancer initiation and progression.

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Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics, McGill University, Montreal, QC, Canada.


The epigenome which comprises DNA methylation, histone modifications, chromatin structures and non-coding RNAs controls gene expression patterns. In cancer cells, there are aberrant changes in the epigenome. The question in cancer epigenetics is that whether these changes are the cause of cell transformation, or rather the consequence of it. We will discuss the epigenetic phenomenon in cancer, as well as the recent interests in the epigenetic reprogramming events, and their implications in the cancer stem cell theory. We will also look at the progression of cancers as they become more aggressive, with focus on the role of epigenetics in tumor metastases exemplified with the urokinase plasminogen activator (uPA) system. Last but not least, with therapeutics intervention in mind, we will highlight the importance of balance in the design of epigenetic based anti-cancer therapeutic strategies.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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