The Francis Crick Institute
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Epigenetics and cancer stem cells: Unleashing, hijacking, and restricting cellular plasticity

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journal contribution
posted on 2021-08-17, 13:27 authored by Elanor N Wainwright, Paola Scaffidi
Epigenetic mechanisms have emerged as key players in cancer development which affect cellular states at multiple stages of the disease. During carcinogenesis, alterations in chromatin and DNA methylation resulting from genetic lesions unleash cellular plasticity and favor oncogenic cellular reprogramming. At later stages, during cancer growth and progression, additional epigenetic changes triggered by interaction with the microenvironment modulate cancer cell phenotypes and properties, and shape tumor architecture. We review here recent advances highlighting the interplay between epigenetics, genetics, and cell-to-cell signaling in cancer, with particular emphasis on mechanisms relevant for cancer stem cell formation (CSC) and function.