Cancer epigenetics: modifications, screening, and therapy

Annu Rev Med. 2008:59:267-80. doi: 10.1146/


Deregulation of gene expression is a hallmark of cancer. Although genetic lesions have been the focus of cancer research for many years, it has become increasingly recognized that aberrant epigenetic modifications also play major roles in the tumorigenic process. These modifications are imposed on chromatin, do not change the nucleotide sequence of DNA, and are manifested by specific patterns of gene expression that are heritable through many cell divisions. We review these modifications in normal and cancer cells and the evolving approaches used to study them. Additionally, we outline advances in their potential use for cancer diagnostics and targeted epigenetic therapy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • DNA Methylation
  • Epigenesis, Genetic*
  • Histones / physiology
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Neoplasms / therapy


  • Histones