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Our rapidly growing knowledge about cancer genetics attests to the widespread occurrence of alterations at genes encoding different components of the SWI/SNF complex. This reveals an important new feature that sustains cancer development: the blockade of chromatin remodeling. Here, we provide an overview of our current knowledge on the gene alterations of chromatin-remodeling factors, and how they relate to cancer and human developmental diseases. We also consider the functional repercussions, particularly how the inactivation of the SWI/SNF complex impairs the appropriate cell response to nuclear receptor signaling, which, in turn, prevents cell differentiation and sustains cell growth independently of the environment.