Genetics and epigenetics
The inclusion of genetics in its genome dimension, associated with the skills achieved in characterization of the molecular status of patients and tumors, constitutes significant progress in the diagnostic, prognosis and therapeutic decision-making processes. The development of our knowledge and large-scale data analysis has become inevitable, and now epigenetics is a force to be reckoned with. This discipline studies the mechanisms at play in gene regulation, which is essential to the action of cells and to maintaining their identity. It is now widely accepted that cancer is the result of mechanisms in which genetic mutations affecting the sequences of genes or the genome are added to other modifications now known as epi-mutations, which alter genes without affecting the sequence, constituting the epigenome of cancer. Unlike genetic mutations, which are permanent, epigenetic modifications on DNA or histones are reversible.
A pioneer in epigenetic research, Institut Curie took a vital new step in January 2017, when it created a translational research team devoted to this topic as part of the SiRIC program. The plan of this team, led by Céline Vallot, is to exploit the dynamics of epigenetic deregulations during growth of the tumor in vitro and in vivo, using an innovative cellular model to capture the epigenetic alterations in real time.
In combination with ongoing efforts in genetics, this research should quickly lead to a better understanding of the mechanisms that lead to development of cancer and, in the long term, should reveal new therapeutic targets.