Targeting the cancer epigenome for therapy

Nat Rev Genet. 2016 Sep 15;17(10):630-41. doi: 10.1038/nrg.2016.93.


Next-generation sequencing has revealed that more than 50% of human cancers harbour mutations in enzymes that are involved in chromatin organization. Tumour cells not only are activated by genetic and epigenetic alterations, but also routinely use epigenetic processes to ensure their escape from chemotherapy and host immune surveillance. Hence, a growing emphasis of recent drug discovery efforts has been on targeting the epigenome, including DNA methylation and histone modifications, with several new drugs being tested and some already approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The future will see the increasing success of combining epigenetic drugs with other therapies. As epigenetic drugs target the epigenome as a whole, these true 'genomic medicines' lessen the need for precision approaches to individualized therapies.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • DNA Methylation / drug effects*
  • Epigenesis, Genetic
  • Epigenomics / methods*
  • High-Throughput Nucleotide Sequencing / methods
  • Histone Deacetylase Inhibitors / pharmacology*
  • Histones / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Neoplasms / genetics*


  • Histone Deacetylase Inhibitors
  • Histones