ADVERTISEMENT
See Inside April 2007

Chemo Control

Drugs target epigenetic changes in cancer cells

Today's cancer chemotherapy consists of little more than a dismal array of toxic drugs that kill healthy cells along with cancerous ones. Physicians must often play a deadly game of trial and error, hoping to find the right dose of the right medicine before time runs out. But a pipeline of new molecular drugs targeting so-called epigenetic phenomena could change that. These treatments could mark a path to a new array of cancer prevention strategies less toxic to the body.

The term "epigenetics" refers to the study of changes in gene expression that do not involve changes in the genetic code; they include an expanding roster of subtle molecular modifications that tell cells which genes to activate (or transcribe) and which to suppress. In cancer cells, these small-molecule regulators can act like broken dimmer switches, turning genes that promote cell growth all the way up and those that suppress tumors all the way down. By comparing the epigenetic patterns of cancerous cells with those of healthy cells, scientists are trying to identify the abnormalities tied to tumor growth. Research has led to the discovery of epigenetic culprits in many cancers, including those found in the colon, prostate, breast and blood.

This is only a preview. Get the rest of this article now!

Select an option below:

Customer Sign In

*You must have purchased this issue or have a qualifying subscription to access this content


It has been identified that the institution you are trying to access this article from has institutional site license access to Scientific American on nature.com.
Click here to access this article in its entirety through site license access.

Rights & Permissions
Share this Article:

Comments

You must sign in or register as a ScientificAmerican.com member to submit a comment.
Scientific American Back To School

Back to School Sale!

12 Digital Issues + 4 Years of Archive Access just $19.99

Order Now >

X

Email this Article



This function is currently unavailable

X