Aberrant epigenetic landscape in cancer: how cellular identity goes awry

Dev Cell. 2010 Nov 16;19(5):698-711. doi: 10.1016/j.devcel.2010.10.005.


Appropriate patterns of DNA methylation and histone modifications are required to assure cell identity, and their deregulation can contribute to human diseases, such as cancer. Our aim here is to provide an overview of how epigenetic factors, including genomic DNA methylation, histone modifications, and microRNA regulation, contribute to normal development, paying special attention to their role in regulating tissue-specific genes. In addition, we summarize how these epigenetic patterns go awry during human cancer development. The possibility of "resetting" the abnormal cancer epigenome by applying pharmacological or genetic strategies is also discussed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation / genetics
  • DNA Methylation
  • Embryonic Development / genetics
  • Epigenesis, Genetic*
  • Epigenomics
  • Genomic Imprinting
  • Genomic Instability
  • Histones / genetics
  • Histones / metabolism
  • Humans
  • MicroRNAs / genetics
  • MicroRNAs / metabolism
  • Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Neoplasms / therapy
  • X Chromosome Inactivation


  • Histones
  • MicroRNAs