Cancer Epigenetics

  • Carsten Carlberg
  • Ferdinand Molnár


Compared to normal cells, cancer cells show epigenetic drifts, which are genome-wide changes in DNA methylation, histone modifications, and 3D chromatin structure representing epimutations. Moreover, many tumors reactivate programs of fetal development; i.e., tumorigenesis is associated with epigenetic reprograming. The mechanistic bases of cancer epigenetics are specific genetic, environmental, and metabolic stimuli that disrupt the homeostatic balance of chromatin, which then either becomes very restrictive or permissive. Recent drug discovery efforts targeted the epigenome and inhibitors of chromatin modifiers are tested in clinical trials and some were already approved for therapy.


Epimutation Epigenetic reprograming Tumorigenesis Hallmarks of cancer Epigenetic modifiers Epigenetic mediators Epigenetic modulators Epigenetic therapy 

Further Reading

  1. Berdasco M, Esteller M (2019) Clinical epigenetics: seizing opportunities for translation. Nat Rev Genet 20:109–127CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Feinberg AP, Koldobskiy MA, Gondor A (2016) Epigenetic modulators, modifiers and mediators in cancer aetiology and progression. Nat Rev Genet 17:284–299CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Flavahan WA, Gaskell E, Bernstein BE (2017) Epigenetic plasticity and the hallmarks of cancer. Science 357:eaal2380CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Hitchins MP (2015) Constitutional epimutation as a mechanism for cancer causality and heritability? Nat Rev Cancer 15:625–634CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Pfister SX, Ashworth A (2017) Marked for death: targeting epigenetic changes in cancer. Nat Rev Drug Discov 16:241–263CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Shen H, Laird PW (2013) Interplay between the cancer genome and epigenome. Cell 153:38–55CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Suva ML, Riggi N, Bernstein BE (2013) Epigenetic reprograming in cancer. Science 339:1567–1570CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Carsten Carlberg
    • 1
  • Ferdinand Molnár
    • 2
  1. 1.Institute of BiomedicineUniversity of Eastern FinlandKuopioFinland
  2. 2.Department of BiologyNazarbayev UniversityNur-SultanKazakhstan

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