The role of epigenetic therapies in colorectal cancer

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26 Scopus citations


Although developments in the diagnosis and therapy of colorectal cancer (CRC) have been made in the last decade, much work remains to be done as it remains the second leading cause of cancer death. It is now well established that epigenetic events, together with genetic alterations, are key events in initiation and progression of CRC. Epigenetics refers to heritable alterations in gene expression that do not involve changes in the DNA sequence. These alterations include DNA methylation, histone alterations, chromatin remodelers, and noncoding RNAs. In CRC, aberrations in epigenome may also involve in the development of drug resistance to conventional drugs such as 5-fluorouracil, oxaliplatin, and irinotecan. Thus, it has been suggested that combined therapies with epigenetic agents may reverse drug resistance. In this regard, DNA methyltransferase inhibitors and histone deacetylase inhibitors have been extensively investigated in CRC. The aim of this review is to provide a brief overview of the preclinical data that represent a proof of principle for the employment of epigenetic agents in CRC with a focus on the advantages of combinatorial therapy over single-drug treatment. We will also critically discuss the results and limitations of initial clinical experiences of epigenetic-based therapy in CRC and summarize ongoing clinical trials. Nevertheless, since recent translational research suggest that epigenetic modulators play a key role in augmenting immunogenicity of the tumor microenvironment and in restoring immune recognition, we will also highlight the recent developments of combinations strategies of immunotherapies and epigenetic therapies in CRC, summarizing preclinical, and clinical data to signify this evolving and promising field for CRC treatment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalCurrent Problems in Cancer
StateAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2018


  • Chemosensitization
  • Colorectal cancer
  • DNA methylation
  • DNMTs
  • Epigenetic therapy
  • Epigenetics
  • HDACs
  • Immunotherapy
  • Therapeutics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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