Epigenetic targets for immune intervention in human malignancies

Oncogene. 2003 Sep 29;22(42):6484-8. doi: 10.1038/sj.onc.1206956.


Emerging evidences suggest that epigenetic events associated with tumor development and progression, such as deregulated methylation of CpG dinucleotides and aberrant histone acetylation, may impair the immunogenic potential of cancer cells. In fact, DNA hypermethylation and/or histone deacetylation contribute to the absent or downregulated expression of different components of the 'tumor recognition complex' (i.e., HLA class I antigens, cancer/testis antigens and accessory/costimulatory molecules) in solid and hemopoietic human malignancies. However, pharmacologic agents that induce DNA hypomethylation or inhibit histone deacetylation can modify these epigenetic phenomena, restoring the defective expression of selected components of the 'tumor recognition complex' in cancer cells. These antigenic modifications positively modulate the immunogenicity and the immune recognition of cancer cells, making epigenetic drugs attractive agents to design new combined chemoimmunotherapeutic strategies for the treatment of cancer patients.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antigens, Neoplasm / genetics
  • Antigens, Neoplasm / immunology
  • Humans
  • Immunotherapy / methods*
  • Neoplasms / genetics
  • Neoplasms / immunology
  • Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction


  • Antigens, Neoplasm