Targeting epigenetic aberrations in pancreatic cancer, a new path to improve patient outcomes?

Brooke D. Paradise, Whitney Barham, Martín E. Fernandez-Zapico

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Pancreatic cancer has one of the highest mortality rates among all types of cancers. The disease is highly aggressive and typically diagnosed in late stage making it difficult to treat. Currently, the vast majority of therapeutic regimens have only modest curative effects, and most of them are in the surgical/neo-adjuvant setting. There is a great need for new and more effective treatment strategies in common clinical practice. Previously, pathogenesis of pancreatic cancer was attributed solely to genetic mutations; however, recent advancements in the field have demonstrated that aberrant activation of epigenetic pathways contributes significantly to the pathogenesis of the disease. The identification of these aberrant activated epigenetic pathways has revealed enticing targets for the use of epigenetic inhibitors to mitigate the phenotypic changes driven by these cascades. These pathways have been found to be responsible for overactivation of growth signaling pathways and silencing of tumor suppressors and other cell cycle checkpoints. Furthermore, new miRNA signatures have been uncovered in pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) patients, further widening the window for therapeutic opportunity. There has been success in preclinical settings using both epigenetic inhibitors as well as miRNAs to slow disease progression and eliminate diseased tissues. In addition to their utility as anti-proliferative agents, the pharmacological inhibitors that target epigenetic regulators (referred to here as readers, writers, and erasers for their ability to recognize, deposit, and remove post-translational modifications) have the potential to reconfigure the epigenetic landscape of diseased cells and disrupt the cancerous phenotype. The potential to “reprogram” cancer cells to revert them to a healthy state presents great promise and merits further investigation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number128
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2018


  • Chromatin structure and dynamics
  • Epigenetics
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Pharmacologic inhibitors
  • Tumor reprogramming

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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