Epigenetic dysregulation: a novel pathway of oncogenesis in pediatric brain tumors

Acta Neuropathol. 2014 Nov;128(5):615-27. doi: 10.1007/s00401-014-1325-8. Epub 2014 Jul 31.


A remarkably large number of "epigenetic regulators" have been recently identified to be altered in cancers and a rapidly expanding body of literature points to "epigenetic addiction" (an aberrant epigenetic state to which a tumor is addicted) as a new previously unsuspected mechanism of oncogenesis. Although mutations are also found in canonical signaling pathway genes, we and others identified chromatin-associated proteins to be more commonly altered by somatic alterations than any other class of oncoprotein in several subgroups of childhood high-grade brain tumors. Furthermore, as these childhood malignancies carry fewer non-synonymous somatic mutations per case in contrast to most adult cancers, these mutations are likely drivers in these tumors. Herein, we will use as examples of this novel hallmark of oncogenesis high-grade astrocytomas, including glioblastoma, and a subgroup of embryonal tumors, embryonal tumor with multilayered rosettes (ETMR) to describe the novel molecular defects uncovered in these deadly tumors. We will further discuss evidence for their profound effects on the epigenome. The relative genetic simplicity of these tumors promises general insights into how mutations in the chromatin machinery modify downstream epigenetic signatures to drive transformation, and how to target this plastic genetic/epigenetic interface.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Brain Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Carcinogenesis / genetics*
  • Epigenesis, Genetic / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Pediatrics