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04-06-2018 | Renal cell carcinoma | Article

Epigenetics in renal cell cancer: mechanisms and clinical applications

Nature Reviews Urology

Authors: Sophie C. Joosten, Kim M. Smits, Maureen J. Aarts, Veerle Melotte, Alexander Koch, Vivianne C. Tjan-Heijnen, Manon van Engeland

Publisher: Nature Publishing Group UK


Renal cell carcinoma (RCC) is characterized by an infrequent number of somatic mutations. By contrast, epigenetic aberrations are commonly found in RCC, indicating that epigenetic reprogramming is an important event in RCC development. Epigenetic alterations comprise several different aberrations, such as changes in histone modifications, DNA methylation, and microRNA levels, and occur in the most important signalling pathways in RCC, such as the von Hippel–Lindau disease tumour suppressor (VHL)–hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF) pathway, the WNT–β-catenin pathway, and pathways involved in epithelial–mesenchymal transition. Owing to their involvement in these pathways and frequent occurrence in RCC, epigenetic alterations are regarded as potential biomarkers for the early detection of disease and for prediction of prognosis and treatment response. In addition, most of these alterations are potentially reversible, so they also provide new targets for therapy. At the moment, epigenetic biomarkers for RCC are not being used in clinical practice, but targeted epigenetic therapies are under investigation. Understanding the extent of epigenetic changes occurring in RCC and the mechanisms by which they influence disease progression and treatment response, as well as knowledge of current research on biomarkers and treatments, is crucial to successful clinical translation of epigenetics in RCC.

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