Minireview: epigenetic changes in ovarian cancer

Endocrinology. 2009 Sep;150(9):4003-11. doi: 10.1210/en.2009-0404. Epub 2009 Jul 2.


Epigenetic aberrations, including DNA methylation, histone modifications, and micro-RNA dysregulation, are now well established in the development and progression of ovarian cancer, and their gradual accumulation is associated with advancing disease stage and grade. Epigenetic aberrations are relatively stable, associated with distinct disease subtypes, and present in circulating serum, representing promising diagnostic, prognostic, and pharmacodynamic biomarkers. In contrast to DNA mutations and deletions, aberrant gene-repressive epigenetic modifications are potentially reversible by epigenetic therapies, including inhibitors of DNA methylation or histone-modifying enzymes. Although epigenetic monotherapies have not shown activity against solid tumors, including ovarian cancer, preclinical studies suggest they will be effective when used in combination with one another or with conventional chemotherapeutics, and combinatorial epigenetic therapy regiments are being examined in cancer clinical trials. A greater understanding of the role of epigenetics in ovarian neoplasia will provide for improved interventions against this devastating malignancy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers, Tumor / metabolism
  • DNA Methylation
  • Epigenesis, Genetic*
  • Female
  • Genes, BRCA1 / physiology
  • Histones / metabolism
  • Humans
  • MicroRNAs / genetics
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / etiology
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / therapy


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Histones
  • MicroRNAs