This epigenetics sketch was created by Armando Hasudungan, in collaboration with Professor Susan Clark and Dr Kate Patterson at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research. It has been created for a broad, non-expert audience to highlight key messages about the role epigenetics plays in biological processes like development and diseases such as cancer. Find out more: https://www.garvan.org.au/research/genomics-epigenetics
In normal, healthy cells, two epigenetic processes – DNA methylation and DNA de-methylation – are maintained in a delicate balance. This balance is disrupted in cancer. Gene promoter regions that are typically unmethylated in healthy cells commonly become highly methylated in cancer and the associated gene is silenced. In comparison, the non-genic regions of DNA become de-methylated in cancer often leading to DNA instability. This disorganized DNA methylation pattern means that the cancer DNA becomes de-arranged and genes responsible for stopping cancer growth, also called tumour suppressor genes, are switched off, allowing cancers to grow unchecked.