September 24, 2014 – : Demethylation


Anchor lead: How might epigenetics be involved in cancer development? Elizabeth Tracey reports

Epigenetics, or changes to genetic material that don’t involve DNA, have been shown to be present in a variety of types of cancer, work by Andrew Feinberg and colleagues at Johns Hopkins and Harvard has shown. But how might such changes promote cancer growth? Feinberg explains.

Feinberg: The most important thing that we think is going on is that there is a randomization of gene expression.  Genes are being allowed to kind of randomly get turned on and turned off, and if you think about how cancer develops if you have a cell or a group of cells where the genes within them are able to become activated or silenced kind of randomly, maybe they have a change in gene expression that isn’t very good for their growth around other cells, so that cell will die, but other cells might have an advantage in that environment and they’ll grow at the expense of cells around them.  :31

Feinberg sees potential clinical utility in assessing someone’s cancer for epigenetic as well as genetic changes.  At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.