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DNA Methylation as Clinically Useful Biomarkers—Light at the End of the Tunnel

Author(s): Victor V. Levenson | Anatoliy A. Melnikov

Journal: Pharmaceuticals
ISSN 1424-8247

Volume: 5;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 94;
Date: 2012;
Original page

Keywords: DNA methylation | biomarker | cfcDNA | cancer | therapy | MethDet

A recent expansion of our knowledge about epigenetic changes strongly suggests that epigenetic rather than genetic features better reflect disease development, and consequently, can become more conclusive biomarkers for the detection and diagnosis of different diseases. In this paper we will concentrate on the current advances in DNA methylation studies that demonstrate a direct link between abnormal DNA methylation and a disease. This link can be used to develop diagnostic biomarkers that will precisely identify a particular disease. It also appears that disease-specific DNA methylation patterns undergo unique changes in response to treatment with a particular drug, thus raising the possibility of DNA methylation-based biomarkers for the monitoring of treatment efficacy, for prediction of response to treatment, and for the prognosis of outcome. While biomarkers for oncology are the most obvious applications, other fields of medicine are likely to benefit as well. This potential is demonstrated by DNA methylation-based biomarkers for neurological and psychiatric diseases. A special requirement for a biomarker is the possibility of longitudinal testing. In this regard cell-free circulating DNA from blood is especially interesting because it carries methylation markers specific for a particular disease. Although only a few DNA methylation-based biomarkers have attained clinical relevance, the ongoing efforts to decipher disease-specific methylation patterns are likely to produce additional biomarkers for detection, diagnosis, and monitoring of different diseases in the near future.
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