The Center for Cancer Epigenetics at the MD Anderson Cancer Center.
The Center for Cancer Epigenetics at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center is at the forefront of epigenetics research. The beginning of the 21stcentury witnessed a revolution in the field of epigenetics, which refers to heritable factors beyond the DNA sequence that impact the phenotype of a cell. The regulation, use, and protection of the information stored in DNA is largely governed by how that information is stored within the cell nucleus. In essence, the DNA sequence can be thought of a genetic blueprint that contains all the instructions necessary to create an organism. However, individual cells only need to read parts of the blueprint relevant to the growth and function of that cell and tissue type. The other parts of the blueprint are literally folded away so that the cell can concentrate on the relevant information. We now know that this folding is regulated by a combination of DNA methylation, post-translational changes to the histone proteins that package the DNA into chromatin, and expression of small non-coding RNAs. How epigenomes are established and maintained, and what happens to epigenetic states as cells differentiate or are transformed into a diseased state is still far from clear. Epigenetic regulators impact both tumor suppression and oncogenesis, and emerging therapies targeting these activities offer new hope for cancer treatments.