Promoter-region hypermethylation and gene silencing in human cancer

Curr Top Microbiol Immunol. 2000;249:35-54. doi: 10.1007/978-3-642-59696-4_3.


In summary, it is apparent that alterations in DNA methylation are a fundamental molecular change associated with the neoplastic process and have important biologic implications for tumor initiation and progression. The promoter-region hypermethylation events covered in the present chapter are especially critical and can frequently serve as alternative mechanisms for coding-region mutations for loss of key gene function in neoplastic cells. The mechanisms underlying the precise role of this hypermethylation in gene silencing must be further defined, as must the determinants of the hypermethylation changes themselves. The therapeutic implications of promoter-region hypermethylation must be explored, and a potential use for establishing this change as a sensitive biomarker for use in multiple types of cancer-risk assessment and detection assays has already emerged. The next few years should see exciting advances in our understanding of an epigenetic process which, in conjunction with genetic alterations, appears to drive the process of neoplasia.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic / genetics*
  • CpG Islands
  • DNA Methylation*
  • DNA, Neoplasm / genetics
  • Gene Silencing*
  • Genes, Tumor Suppressor
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / etiology
  • Prognosis
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic*


  • DNA, Neoplasm