Suffocating cancer: hypoxia-associated epimutations as targets for cancer therapyReport as inadecuate

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Clinical Epigenetics

, 3:9

First Online: 05 December 2011Received: 16 August 2011Accepted: 05 December 2011


Lower than normal levels of oxygen hypoxia is a hallmark of all solid tumours rendering them frequently resistant to both radiotherapy and chemotherapy regimes. Furthermore, tumour hypoxia and activation of the hypoxia inducible factor HIF transcriptional pathway is associated with poorer prognosis. Driven by both genetic and epigenetic changes, cancer cells do not only survive but thrive in hypoxic conditions. Detailed knowledge of these changes and their functional consequences is of great clinical utility and is already helping to determine phenotypic plasticity, histological tumour grading and overall prognosis and survival stratification in several cancer types. As epigenetic changes - contrary to genetic changes - are potentially reversible, they may prove to be potent therapeutic targets to add to the cancer physicians- armorarium in the future.

Here, we review the therapeutic potential of epigenetic modifications including DNA methylation, histone modifications and miRNAs occurring in hypoxia with particular reference to cancer and tumourigenesis.

KeywordsHypoxia Hypoxia inducible factor HIF DNA methylation histone modification micro-RNA Electronic supplementary materialThe online version of this article doi:10.1186-1868-7083-3-9 contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

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Author: C Thirlwell - LKE Schulz - HK Dibra - S Beck


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