Epigenetics refers to alterations in gene expression due to modifications in histone acetylation and DNA methylation at the promoter regions of genes. Unlike genetic mutations, epigenetic alterations are not due to modifications in the gene primary nucleotide sequence. The importance of epigenetics in the initiation and progression of breast cancer has led many investigators to incorporate this novel and exciting field in breast cancer drug development. Several drugs that target epigenetic alterations, including inhibitors of histone deacetylase (HDAC) and DNA methyltransferase (DNMT), are currently approved for treatment of hematological malignancies and are available for clinical investigation in solid tumors. In this manuscript, we review the critical role of epigenetics in breast cancer including the potential for epigenetic alterations to serve as biomarkers determining breast cancer prognosis and response to therapy. We highlight initial promising results to date with use of epigenetic modifiers in patients with breast cancer and the ongoing challenges involved in the successful establishment of these agents for the treatment of breast cancer.
- Breast cancer
- DNA methyltransferase inhibitor (DNMT)
- Histone deacetylase inhibitor (HDAC)
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research