The fundamental role of epigenetic events in cancer

Nat Rev Genet. 2002 Jun;3(6):415-28. doi: 10.1038/nrg816.


Patterns of DNA methylation and chromatin structure are profoundly altered in neoplasia and include genome-wide losses of, and regional gains in, DNA methylation. The recent explosion in our knowledge of how chromatin organization modulates gene transcription has further highlighted the importance of epigenetic mechanisms in the initiation and progression of human cancer. These epigenetic changes -- in particular, aberrant promoter hypermethylation that is associated with inappropriate gene silencing -- affect virtually every step in tumour progression. In this review, we discuss these epigenetic events and the molecular alterations that might cause them and/or underlie altered gene expression in cancer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Chromosome Mapping
  • DNA Methylation
  • Genome, Human
  • Humans
  • Mass Screening / methods
  • Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Signal Transduction / genetics