Korean J Otorhinolaryngol-Head Neck Surg.  2009 Dec;52(12):943-948. 10.3342/kjorl-hns.2009.52.12.943.

Epigenetics in Head and Neck Cancer

Affiliations
  • 1Department of Otorhinolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, Ilsong Memorial Institute of Head and Neck Cancer, Hallym University College of Medicine, Seoul, Korea. ispark@hallym.or.kr

Abstract

While genetic alterations in head and neck cancer have long been documented, the appreciation of epigenetic changes is more recent. Epigenetics of head and neck cancer becomes an area of emerging research direction due to a growing understanding of specific epigenetic pathways and rapid development of detection technologies. Epigenetic changes alter expression of tumor suppressor genes without changes in DNA sequence. Epigenetic mechanisms such as DNA methylation, histone modification and alteration in genomic imprinting have been shown to silence key genes involved in cell proliferation, differentiation and genome integrity, and clearly have a central role in head and neck cancer. The pattern of hypermethylation in any individual tumor can now be accurately determined, which may find application in molecular staging. The study of epigenetic changes should provide a global view of gene profile in head and neck cancer, and epigenetic markers could be used for early detection, prognosis, and therapy of cancer patients.

Keyword

Epigenetics; Head and neck cancer; DNA methylation
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