Many genes in our bodies are permanently turned off as part of normal development. But sometimes that process goes awry, turning off genes that should otherwise remain active. The new field of epigenetic therapy, put forth by the USC researchers in their Nature review paper, aims to switch these genes back on.
In their article, Peter Jones, Ph.D., director of USC/Norris and Distinguished Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and Urology at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California, and his colleagues lay out their new perspective on the treatment of genetic disorders by discussing the potential ways to interfere with epigenetic gene silencing, and the ways in which that potential is already being exploited.
"The fact that many human diseases, including cancer, have an epigenetic etiology has encouraged the development of a new therapeutic option that might be termed 'epigenetic therapy,'" Jones and his colleagues write. They add that a number of chemical compounds have been found that have an affect on some form of epigenetic gene change, and note that "several of these agents are currently being tested in clinical trials," including trials being conducted at USC/Norris.
This Nature review comes just days after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the epigenetic inhibitor azacitidine (Vidaza(tm), Pharmion Corporation) for the treatment of a pre-leukemic bone-marrow disorder known
Contact: Sarah Huoh
University of Southern California