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Epigenetics, Nervous System Tumors, and Cancer Stem Cells

Author(s): Irfan A. Qureshi | Mark F. Mehler

Journal: Cancers
ISSN 2072-6694

Volume: 3;
Issue: 3;
Start page: 3525;
Date: 2011;
Original page

Keywords: cancer | cancer stem cell | nervous system tumor | chromatin | CoREST | epigenetic | glioblastoma multiforme | non-coding RNA | REST

Recent advances have begun to elucidate how epigenetic regulatory mechanisms are responsible for establishing and maintaining cell identity during development and adult life and how the disruption of these processes is, not surprisingly, one of the hallmarks of cancer. In this review, we describe the major epigenetic mechanisms (i.e., DNA methylation, histone and chromatin modification, non-coding RNA deployment, RNA editing, and nuclear reorganization) and discuss the broad spectrum of epigenetic alterations that have been uncovered in pediatric and adult nervous system tumors. We also highlight emerging evidence that suggests epigenetic deregulation is a characteristic feature of so-called cancer stem cells (CSCs), which are thought to be present in a range of nervous system tumors and responsible for tumor maintenance, progression, treatment resistance, and recurrence. We believe that better understanding how epigenetic mechanisms operate in neural cells and identifying the etiologies and consequences of epigenetic deregulation in tumor cells and CSCs, in particular, are likely to promote the development of enhanced molecular diagnostics and more targeted and effective therapeutic agents for treating recalcitrant nervous system tumors.
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