Colorectal cancer (CRC) is a leading cause of cancer deaths worldwide. One of the fundamental processes driving the initiation and progression of CRC is the accumulation of a variety of genetic and epigenetic changes in colonic epithelial cells. Over the past decade, major advances have been made in our understanding of cancer epigenetics, particularly regarding aberrant DNA methylation, microRNA (miRNA) and noncoding RNA deregulation, and alterations in histone modification states. Assessment of the colon cancer "epigenome" has revealed that virtually all CRCs have aberrantly methylated genes and altered miRNA expression. The average CRC methylome has hundreds to thousands of abnormally methylated genes and dozens of altered miRNAs. As with gene mutations in the cancer genome, a subset of these epigenetic alterations, called driver events, are presumed to have a functional role in CRC. In addition, the advances in our understanding of epigenetic alterations in CRC have led to these alterations being developed as clinical biomarkers for diagnostic, prognostic, and therapeutic applications. Progress in this field suggests that these epigenetic alterations will be commonly used in the near future to direct the prevention and treatment of CRC.
Keywords: DNA Methylation; Histone Modification; Long Noncoding RNA; MicroRNA.
Copyright © 2015 AGA Institute. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.