Epigenetics May Spark Tumors Without DNA Mutations

Scientists from the CNRS are part of a research team that has found that epigenetic changes, or modifications that affect the regulation of gene expression, can be the sole cause of cancer, one of the world's leading causes of death.

These changes also help to explain why, even with the same genome, an individual can develop very different types of cells, such as neurons and skin cells. Although research has previously detailed the role that these processes play in the emergence of cancer, this is the first instance in which scientists have shown that genetic mutations are not necessary for the disease to manifest.

This finding compels us to reevaluate the hypothesis that, for over 30 years, has maintained that cancers are primarily hereditary illnesses brought on by DNA mutations that accumulate at the genome level.

To demonstrate this, the study team concentrated on epigenetic variables, which can change gene activity. Researchers have discovered that a portion of the genome is still dysfunctional by inducing Drosophila epigenetic dysregulation and subsequently returning the cells to their original state.

This phenomenon results in the induction of a tumor state that persists and is sustained on its own, remembering that these cells are malignant even after the signal that initiated it has been restored.

Journal reference:

Schuettengruber, V., et al. (2024) Transient loss of Polycomb components induces an epigenetic cancer fate. Nature. doi.org//10.1038/s41586-019-0000-0


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