Drugs which reverse epigenetic abnormalities are looking very promising in the treatment of some blood cancers and may have a role to play in solid tumors such as lung cancer. These research results are being presented at the 15th Congress of the European Hematology Association (EHA) taking place from June 10 to 13 at the Fira Barcelona Gran Via in Barcelonin, Barcelona, Spain.

In cell biology epigenetics refers to inherited changes in gene expression caused by something other than changes in the underlying DNA. These changes persist through cell division and throughout the remainder of the cell’s life unless forcefully reserved. If you consider a comparison with computers, epigenetics acts as a software package that allows the hard drive information of DNA to be interpreted for the entire range of gene expression and to fulfill its function in different cell types through all stages of development.

This interaction between the software and the hard drive is carefully orchestrated under normal conditions but can go wrong in diseases like cancer. When this happens, epigenetic abnormalities can be added to other known alterations such genetic abnormalities, or mutations, which lead to abnormal gene function and disease.

The mapping of epigenetic abnormalities is an active area of research. It has important implications for identifying new markers for the diagnosis and monitoring of cancer treatment.

Unlike mutations, epigenetic abnormalities are experimentally much easier to reverse. Drugs which reverse epigenetic abnormalities are looking very promising in the treatment of some blood cancers and may have a role to play in solid tumors such as lung cancer.

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