DNA methylation and cancer diagnosis: new methods and applications

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Methylation of cytosines in cytosine–guanine (CpG) dinucleotides is one of the most important epigenetic alterations in animals. The presence of methylcytosine in the promoter of specific genes has profound consequences on local chromatin structure and on the regulation of gene expression. Changes in DNA methylation play a central role in carcinogenesis. Hypermethylation and consecutive transcriptional silencing of tumor-suppressor genes has been documented in numerous cancers. The identification of target genes silenced by this modification has a great impact on diagnosis, classification, definition of risk groups and prognosis of cancer patients. Here we outline genome-wide techniques aiming at the identification of relevant methylated promoters. Methods and applications allowing clinicians to monitor the methylation of target genes will be also reviewed.

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