Epigenetic Alterations in Bone and Soft Tissue Tumors

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Human malignancies are driven by heritable alterations that lead to unchecked cellular proliferation, invasive growth and distant spread. Heritable changes can arise from changes in DNA sequence, or, alternatively, through altered gene expression rooted in epigenetic mechanisms. In recent years, high-throughput sequencing of tumor genomes has revealed a central role for mutations in epigenetic regulatory complexes in oncogenic processes. Through interactions with or direct modifications of chromatin, these proteins help control the accessibility of genes, and thus the transcriptional profile of a cell. Dysfunction in these proteins can lead to activation of oncogenic pathways or silencing of tumor suppressors. Although epigenetic regulators are altered across a broad spectrum of human malignancies, they play a particularly central role in tumors of mesenchymal and neuroectodermal origin. This review will focus on recent advances in the understanding of the molecular pathogenesis of a subset of tumors in which alterations in the polycomb family of chromatin modifying complexes, the SWI/SNF family of nucleosome remodelers, and histones play a central role in disease pathogenesis. Although this review will focus predominantly on the molecular mechanisms underlying these tumors, each section will also highlight areas in which an understanding of the molecular pathogenesis of these diseases has led to the adoption of novel immunohistochemical and molecular markers.

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