Epigenetic mechanisms in oral carcinogenesis

Future Oncol. 2012 Nov;8(11):1407-25. doi: 10.2217/fon.12.138.


Dysregulation of gene expression is a frequent occurrence in oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC). However, accumulating evidence suggests that in contrast to genetics, epigenetic modifications consisting of aberrant DNA methylation, histone modifications and altered expression of miRNAs induce OSCC tumorigenesis and perhaps play a more central role in the evolution and progression of this disease. The unifying theme among these three epigenetic mechanisms remains the same, which is aberrant regulation of gene expression. In this article, we provide a comprehensive review of the impact of epigenetics on oral tumorigenesis with a systematic report on aberrant DNA methylation, histone modifications and miRNA regulation in the pathogenesis of OSCC. We provide insights into recent studies on the prospect of biomarkers for early detection and indication of disease recurrence, and novel treatment modalities.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / metabolism
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / diagnosis
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / drug therapy
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / genetics*
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / metabolism
  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic / genetics*
  • DNA Methylation
  • Epigenesis, Genetic*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic
  • Histone Deacetylase Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Histones / metabolism
  • Humans
  • MicroRNAs / genetics
  • MicroRNAs / metabolism
  • Mouth Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Mouth Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Mouth Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Mouth Neoplasms / metabolism


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Histone Deacetylase Inhibitors
  • Histones
  • MicroRNAs