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Biochimica et Biophysica Acta (BBA) - Reviews on Cancer
Volume 1869 (2), 2018, Pages 333-345

An epi(c)genetic war: Pathogens, cancer and human genome

Deepa Rajagopalan, Sudhakar Jha

Cancer Science Institute of Singapore, National University of Singapore, Singapore Department of Biochemistry, Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, National University of Singapore, Singapore.


Cancer is characterized by inter- and intra-tumor heterogeneity and this is also observed in the context of cancers caused by pathogens. Nearly 20% of all cancers are attributable to pathogenic organisms. Pathogenic infections result in deregulation of gene expression both by genetic and epigenetic mechanisms, thereby causing malignant transformation. Another characteristic of pathogen-induced cancers is the occurrence of chronic inflammation due to activation of the innate and adaptive arms of the immune system. This review focuses on the epigenetic changes induced by oncoviruses, parasites, cancer-causing bacteria and ‘endogenous pathogens’ to trigger host cell proliferation indefinitely as well as the inflammation associated with pathogen-induced cancers. The opportunity of targeting components of both pathogen and host epigenetic machinery to limit tumor progression is also discussed.

Keywords: Epigenetics, Virus-induced cancer, Inflammation, Endogenous retroviral elements, Pathogens, Cancer.

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