Chapter

Human Cell Transformation

Volume 720 of the series Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology pp 91-104

Date:

Role of Epigenetics in Cancer Initiation and Progression

  • Flora ChikAffiliated withDepartment of Pharmacology and Therapeutics, McGill University Email author 
  • , Moshe SzyfAffiliated withDepartment of Pharmacology and Therapeutics, McGill UniversitySackler Program for Epigenetics and Developmental Psychobiology, McGill University
  • , Shafaat A. RabbaniAffiliated withDepartment of Medicine, McGill University Health Centre

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Abstract

The epigenome which comprises DNA methylation, histone modifications, chromatin structures and non-coding RNAs controls gene expression patterns. In cancer cells, there are aberrant changes in the epigenome. The question in cancer epigenetics is that whether these changes are the cause of cell transformation, or rather the consequence of it. We will discuss the epigenetic phenomenon in cancer, as well as the recent interests in the epigenetic reprogramming events, and their implications in the cancer stem cell theory. We will also look at the progression of cancers as they become more aggressive, with focus on the role of epigenetics in tumor metastases exemplified with the urokinase plasminogen activator (uPA) system. Last but not least, with therapeutics intervention in mind, we will highlight the importance of balance in the design of epigenetic based anti-cancer therapeutic strategies.