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Understanding epigenetics to develop new therapies

Conquest - Fall 2013

Epigenetic-based cancer therapies

By Hilary Graham 

FDA approved epigenetic-based therapies: 
Vorinostat (Zolinza) and romidepsin (Istodax) 
inhibit histone deacetylases, while 
azacitidine (Vidaza) and decitabine (Dacogen) 
inhibit DNA methyltransferases — all 
effective treatments for blood cancers..
Photo: Wyatt McSpadden

Hagop Kantarjian, M.D., professor and chair of Leukemia and co-leader of the Leukemia Moon Shot, is leading a clinical trial to investigate the safety and effectiveness of a DNA hypomethylating agent, developed by Astex Pharmaceuticals, in patients with high-risk myelodysplastic syndromes or acute myeloid leukemia.

Currently, there are four available anti-cancer drugs on the market that target two classes of epigenetic regulators (see photo above). A number of leading pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies continue to expand their programs surrounding the development of epigenetic-based therapies. In fact, the next generation of epigenetic cancer drugs promises to be tailored to specific patient populations, based on biomarkers and diagnostic tests.

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© 2014 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center