DNA methylation patterns differ dramatically between healthy and diseased tissue and thereby can serve as biomarkers, opening a window into earlier detection of disease. In a special issue of the journal Disease Markers published in February 2007, ten articles explore the details and challenges of cancer epigenetics.
Writing in the editorial, Guest Editor Martin Widschwendter (Institute for Women’s Health, University College London) emphasizes that, “The concept of early detection of tumours before they spread and become incurable, represents one of the most important challenges in reducing the impact of the growing burden of cancer worldwide…Altered patterns of DNA methylation can be detected with high sensitivity, potentially providing us with diagnostic, prognostic and predictive information, and can be reversed by appropriate drug treatment. These possibilities make cancer epigenetics a most exciting field of current translational research.”
Four articles document different epigenetic alterations in lung, prostate, ovarian and colorectal cancer. The observation of abnormal methylation in the RASSF1A gene in a broad spectrum of tumors is reviewed by Luke B. Hesson, Wendy N.Cooper and Farida Latif. Heidi Fiegl and Karim Elmasry review how DNA-methylation can form the basis for diagnostics and therapeutic monitors.
Epigenetic silencing of the MGMT gene encoding a DNA repair enzyme was recently found to be of predictive value in a randomised clinical trial for newly diagnosed glioblastoma, reviewed by Peter Hau, Roger Stupp and Monika E. Hegi. The possibility of using epigenetic changes in normal tissue to predict an individuals risk of developing cancer is reviewed by Hengmi Cui.
Biostatisticians Todd A. Alonzo and Kimberly D. Siegmund provide an excellent review about various statistical approaches to analysis of the wealth of information gained by DNA methylation studies.
Finally, Craig A. Cooney discusses the recent emergence of “epigenetic epidemiology” where the causes of DNA methylations might be understood and used to direct epigenetics toward improved health and longevity.
Martin WidschwendterThe Role of DNA Methylation in the Development and Progression of Lung Adenocarcinoma
Keith M. Kerr, Janice S. Galler, Jeffrey A. Hagen, Peter W. Laird, and Ite A. Laird-OffringaEpigenetic markers for molecular detection of prostate cancer
Marion Zitt, Matthias Zitt and Hannes M. MüllerThe role of Rassf1a methylation in cancer
Heidi Fiegl and Karim ElmasryMGMT methylation status : the advent of stratified therapy in glioblastoma?
Todd A. Alonzo and Kimberly D. SiegmundEpigenetics – DNA-Based Mirror of Our Environment?
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