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Targeting Epigenetic Modifiers in Cancer

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The chromatin structure of a gene plays an important role in regulating its expression. This structure is established through the action of various protein complexes that remodel nucleosomes, catalyse post-translational modifications, deposit histone variants and methylate DNA. Together these complexes establish epigenetic marks that influence expression of the gene. Some of these epigenetic marks are transient while others, such as those involved in silencing genes are more stable and can require several cell divisions to be fully implemented or reversed. Deregulated gene expression programs are a feature of cancer biology and it is now apparent that epigenetic changes, as well as genetic changes, are important in establishing these aberrant expression patterns. However, unlike genetic alterations, epigenetic changes are reversible. The complexes that catalyse these modifications therefore represent valuable targets for therapeutic intervention. Here we will review the most recent literature describing the protein complexes that catalyse epigenetic modifications and the inhibitors of these complexes that are being pursued as cancer drugs. In addition we will highlight those epigenetic modifiers that provide promise as therapeutic targets but for which inhibitors are not currently available.

Keywords: DNA methyltransferase; Epigenetics; HDAC; histone methyltransferase

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Menzies Research Insitute, Private Bag 58, University of Tasmania, Hobart, Tasmania 7001, Australia.

Publication date: October 1, 2007

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  • Current Medicinal Chemistry covers all the latest and outstanding developments in medicinal chemistry and rational drug design. Each issue contains a series of timely in-depth reviews written by leaders in the field covering a range of the current topics in medicinal chemistry. Current Medicinal Chemistry is an essential journal for every medicinal chemist who wishes to be kept informed and up-to-date with the latest and most important developments.

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