Epigenetics of cervical cancer. An overview and therapeutic perspectives

Mol Cancer. 2005 Oct 25;4:38. doi: 10.1186/1476-4598-4-38.


Cervical cancer remains one of the greatest killers of women worldwide. It is difficult to foresee a dramatic increase in cure rate even with the most optimal combination of cytotoxic drugs, surgery, and radiation; therefore, testing of molecular targeted therapies against this malignancy is highly desirable. A number of epigenetic alterations occur during all stages of cervical carcinogenesis in both human papillomavirus and host cellular genomes, which include global DNA hypomethylation, hypermetylation of key tumor suppressor genes, and histone modifications. The reversible nature of epigenetic changes constitutes a target for transcriptional therapies, namely DNA methylation and histone deacetylase inhibitors. To date, studies in patients with cervical cancer have demonstrated the feasibility of reactivating the expression of hypermethylated and silenced tumor suppressor genes as well as the hyperacetylating and inhibitory effect upon histone deacetylase activity in tumor tissues after treatment with demethylating and histone deacetylase inhibitors. In addition, detection of epigenetic changes in cytological smears, serum DNA, and peripheral blood are of potential interest for development of novel biomolecular markers for early detection, prediction of response, and prognosis.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • DNA Methylation
  • Epigenesis, Genetic / genetics*
  • Female
  • Histones / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Signal Transduction
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / pathology
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / therapy*


  • Histones