Epigenetic therapy combats esophageal cancer
October 23, 2015

Cancer of the esophagus is one of the most aggressive malignancies. In cases where the cancer cannot be removed by operation, radiotherapy or conventional chemotherapy is required for treatment. Recently, members of the Freiburg Collaborative Research Centre of Medical Epigenetics investigated the effects of epigenetic drugs on two common types of esophageal carcinoma cells. They discovered one promising combination of drugs that interfered with cancer development in human tumour tissue in vitro, which may have promising therapeutic applications in the future.

Silke Lassmann and colleagues tested the effects of three different HDAC inhibitors (SAHA, MS-275, FK228). These interfering enzymes remove acetyl groups from histones, which compact chromatin and put genes in an inactivated state. Silke Lassmann and colleagues tested two DNMT inhibitors (azacitidine and decitabine) that suppress DNA methyltransferases from attaching methyl groups to the DNA, which in turn suppresses gene activity. Both of these epigenetic regulation systems go uncontrolled in esophageal cancer.

The researchers anticipated that epigenetic drugs may reactivate genes to fight the cancer and either attenuate or eliminate the cancer cells. The combination of MS-275 and azacitidine influenced the regulation of important genes, weakened the malignant cells, decreased the risk of metastasis, and sometimes triggered cell death. On the other hand, healthy cells were unaffected by the drug combination. Silke Lassmann commented in a press release, "In principle there is a possibility that a new approach can be developed to fight against esophageal cancer. But it is clear -- this is only a first step, and many others must follow.”

Source: http://www.newsletter-epigenetik.de/

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