ANCHOR LEAD: CHANGES TO DNA THAT ARE NOT MUTATIONS ARE AN IMPORTANT FACTOR IN CANCER DEVELOPMENT, ELIZABETH TRACEY REPORTS
At first glance, the term DNA methylation may seem like just another bit of medicalese. But knowing what it means may have important implications for folks who develop cancer. Stephen Baylin, a cancer genetics expert at Johns Hopkins, and colleagues, have found that methylation increases the aggressiveness of certain tumors, something that wasn’t predicted by simply looking at mutations.
BAYLIN: The mutations may underestimate the inactivation frequency of these genes, so that the pathways that these genes involve, the antitumor mechanisms, may be much higher than just the genetics alone would have predicted, so that it makes the case for looking at both this DNA methylation change, or what we call an epigenetic change, and genetic changes when you’re screening tumors. :21
Baylin predicts that looking at tumor DNA for both mutations and methylation will become much more common and helpful in tailoring treatment. I’m Elizabeth Tracey reporting.