The human epigenome and cancer

Mukesh Verma

in Human Genome Epidemiology, 2nd Edition

Published in print December 2009 | ISBN: 9780195398441
Published online May 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780199776023 | DOI:
 							The human epigenome and cancer

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Epigenetics, the study of mechanisms that involve mitotically heritable changes in DNA other than changes in nucleotide sequence, represents a new frontier in research, especially in cancer. Most of our cells contain the same DNA, yet gene expression varies dramatically among different tissues. Epigenetic mechanisms establish and maintain this tissue-specific gene expression. Various chemicals (such as nickel, arsenic, cadmium), certain base analogs, radiation, smoke, stress, hormones (such as estradiol), and reactive oxygen species can alter the phenotypes of mammalian cells, via epigenetic mechanisms, without changing the underlying DNA sequence. These agents can alter the methylation and/or acetylation state of the DNA. Contrary to mutations, epigenetic changes can be reversed by chemicals and thus provide opportunities for development of intervention and treatment strategies. Epigenetic markers could be used in cancer detection, diagnosis, prognosis, and epidemiology. This chapter discusses research opportunities at the National Cancer Institute (NCI), one of the 27 Institutes and Centers at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and efforts to complete human epigenome.

Keywords: epigenomics; clinical practice; disease prevention; cancer epigenetics; National Cancer Institute

Chapter.  12209 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Public Health and Epidemiology

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