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Lung cancer and epigenetics have become inextricably linked. That’s the word from Dr. Annalese Semmler and colleagues from the The University of Queensland and The Prince Charles Hospital in Queensland, Australia in the journal Respirology.
In an invited review exploring the link between epigenetics and lung cancer, the Australian scientists do an admirable job of summarizing many of the discoveries made that offer new hope in lung cancer diagnostics and therapeutics.
For instance, both DNA hypomethylation (a loss of methylation) and DNA hypermethylation (an increase in methylation) have been linked to studies examining genes that are differentially methylated between normal and cancerous lung tissue. The genes that have been linked to altered methylation include those involved in cell cycle regulation, DNA repair, RAS signaling and invasion.
Epigenetics also provides an intriguing opportunity for the early detection of lung cancer. Various genes have been found to be differentially methylated in various body fluids that are potential biomarkers for the early detection of lung cancer, including sputum, bronchial lavage, and peripheral blood. These same biomarkers may also be useful in assessing the risk of a patient developing lung cancer, which could afford a chance for primary prevention (smoking cessation).
Demethylating drugs are also being investigated for their potential in the treatment of lung cancer. However, the authors stress that it will likely require new developments in demethylating agents to induce noticeable effects in lung cancer patients.
These and other links between epigenetic alterations and lung cancer provide researchers with a number of novel strategies for combating a cancer that affects millions around the world. Link
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