Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) prognosis remains very poor and has only marginally improved during the last decades. Epigenetic alterations have been the focus of many recent studies and offer valuable options for PDAC detection, prognosis and treatment. DNA methylation, histone modifications and microRNA (miR) level changes can be used as biomarkers. These alterations occur early in carcinogenesis and may be specific for PDAC. Additionally, epigenetic alterations can be analyzed from cell-free DNA, free-circulating nucleosomes or shed tumor cells in blood. High-throughput methods are available for miR and DNA methylation level detection. In particular, multiple promising miR level changes have been discovered. No single epigenetic biomarker that offers a sufficient specificity has been discovered yet, but patterns containing multiple independent biomarkers exist.
Keywords: DNA methylation; Pancreatic cancer; biomarkers; diagnosis; epigenetics; histone modifications; microRNA.