Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Epigenetic changes can drive cancer, study shows

Date:
July 26, 2014
Source:
Baylor College of Medicine
Summary:
A mouse model has been created providing the first in vivo evidence that epigenetic alterations alone can cause cancer. Epigenetic alterations don't change the DNA sequence but how it is 'read.' In particular, DNA methylation, the addition of a methyl group (or molecule), is an epigenetic switch that can stably turn off genes, suggesting the potential to cause cancer just as a genetic mutation can. Until now, direct evidence that DNA methylation drives cancer formation was lacking.

Dr. Lanlan Shen, associate professor of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine.
Credit: Image courtesy of Baylor College of Medicine

Cancer has long been thought to be primarily a genetic disease, but in recent decades scientists have come to believe that epigenetic changes -- which don't change the DNA sequence but how it is 'read' -- also play a role in cancer. In particular DNA methylation, the addition of a methyl group (or molecule), is an epigenetic switch that can stably turn off genes, suggesting the potential to cause cancer just as a genetic mutation can. Until now, however, direct evidence that DNA methylation drives cancer formation was lacking.

Researchers at the USDA/ARS Children's Nutrition Research Center at Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children's Hospital have now created a mouse model providing the first in vivo evidence that epigenetic alterations alone can cause cancer. Their report appears in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

"We knew that epigenetic changes are associated with cancer, but didn't know whether these were a cause or consequence of cancer. Developing this new approach for 'epigenetic engineering' allowed us to test whether DNA methylation changes alone can drive cancer," said Dr. Lanlan Shen, associate professor of pediatrics at Baylor and senior author of the study.

Shen and colleagues focused on p16, a gene that normally functions to prevent cancer but is commonly methylated in a broad spectrum of human cancers. They devised an approach to engineer DNA methylation specifically to the mouse p16 regulatory region (promoter). As intended, the engineered p16 promoter acted as a 'methylation magnet'. As the mice reached adulthood, gradually increasing p16 methylation led to a higher incidence of spontaneous cancers, and reduced survival.

"This is not only the first in vivo evidence that epigenetic alteration alone can cause cancer," said Shen. "This also has profound implications for future studies, because epigenetic changes are potentially reversible. Our findings therefore both provide hope for new epigenetic therapies and validate a novel approach for testing them."

Shen, who is also with the NCI-designated Dan L. Duncan Cancer Center at Baylor, predicts that this new approach will be widely useful because in addition to p16, there are many other genes and diseases other than cancer that are connected to epigenetics (such as neurodevelopmental diseases, obesity and diabetes). Just as genetic engineering has become a standard approach for studying how genetic mutations cause disease, epigenetic engineering will now enable functional studies of epigenetics.

"This opens up the door for a whole new paradigm of how to understand tumorigenesis. If we can identify epigenetic changes that predispose people to cancer, these may actually be treatable or preventable, so this opens up a lot of optimism in new ways to deal with cancer," said Dr. Robert Waterland, associate professor of pediatrics at Baylor, who was also involved in the study.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Baylor College of Medicine. The original article was written by Dipali Pathak. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Da-Hai Yu, Robert A. Waterland, Pumin Zhang, Deborah Schady, Miao-Hsueh Chen, Yongtao Guan, Manasi Gadkari, Lanlan Shen. Targeted p16Ink4a epimutation causes tumorigenesis and reduces survival in mice. Journal of Clinical Investigation, 2014; DOI: 10.1172/JCI76507

Cite This Page:

Baylor College of Medicine. "Epigenetic changes can drive cancer, study shows." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 26 July 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140726082322.htm>.
Baylor College of Medicine. (2014, July 26). Epigenetic changes can drive cancer, study shows. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140726082322.htm
Baylor College of Medicine. "Epigenetic changes can drive cancer, study shows." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140726082322.htm (accessed September 21, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Sierra Leone's Nationwide Ebola Curfew Underway

Sierra Leone's Nationwide Ebola Curfew Underway

Newsy (Sep. 20, 2014) Sierra Leone is locked down as aid workers and volunteers look for new cases of Ebola. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Changes Found In Brain After One Dose Of Antidepressants

Changes Found In Brain After One Dose Of Antidepressants

Newsy (Sep. 19, 2014) A study suggest antidepressants can kick in much sooner than previously thought. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could Grief Affect The Immune Systems Of Senior Citizens?

Could Grief Affect The Immune Systems Of Senior Citizens?

Newsy (Sep. 19, 2014) The study found elderly people are much more likely to become susceptible to infection than younger adults going though a similar situation. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Jury Delivers Verdict in Salmonella Trial

Jury Delivers Verdict in Salmonella Trial

AP (Sep. 19, 2014) A federal jury has convicted three people in connection with an outbreak of salmonella poisoning five years ago that sickened hundreds of people and was linked to a number of deaths. (Sept. 19) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins