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Clin Epigenetics. 2011 Aug;2(2):123-50. doi: 10.1007/s13148-011-0045-3. Epub 2011 Jul 9.

Role of DNA methylation in head and neck cancer.

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Department of Basic Oncology, Oncology Institute, Istanbul University, 34093 Capa-Istanbul, Turkey.


Head and neck cancer (HNC) is a heterogenous and complex entity including diverse anatomical sites and a variety of tumor types displaying unique characteristics and different etilogies. Both environmental and genetic factors play a role in the development of the disease, but the underlying mechanism is still far from clear. Previous studies suggest that alterations in the genes acting in cellular signal pathways may contribute to head and neck carcinogenesis. In cancer, DNA methylation patterns display specific aberrations even in the early and precancerous stages and may confer susceptibility to further genetic or epigenetic changes. Silencing of the genes by hypermethylation or induction of oncogenes by promoter hypomethylation are frequent mechanisms in different types of cancer and achieve increasing diagnostic and therapeutic importance since the changes are reversible. Therefore, methylation analysis may provide promising clinical applications, including the development of new biomarkers and prediction of the therapeutic response or prognosis. In this review, we aimed to analyze the available information indicating a role for the epigenetic changes in HNC.

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