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Introduction: diet, epigenetic events and cancer prevention

Sharon A Ross , Johanna Dwyer , Asad Umar , Jacob Kagan , Mukesh Verma , Dana M Van Bemmel , Barbara K Dunn
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1753-4887.2008.00055.x S1-S6 First published online: 1 August 2008

Epigenetics is defined as heritable changes in gene expression not associated with alterations in DNA sequence.1 DNA methylation, histone modifications, chromatin remodeling factors, and noncoding regulatory RNAs are all known to be involved in epigenetic regulation of chromatin structure and gene activity. These epigenetic regulatory processes are considered critical components of normal development in cellular differentiation, organogenesis, and aging. Additionally, there is mounting evidence that epigenetic abnormalities are causative factors in several diseases, including cancer. Evidence also continues to surface for constituents in food and dietary supplements to influence gene expression, as well as an individual's risk of developing some cancers. Since epigenetic regulatory processes may be susceptible to changes caused by environmental factors, they offer potential mechanistic explanations for how diet may modify cancer risk and tumor behavior.

The Division of Cancer Prevention (DCP), National Cancer Institute (NCI), and the Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS), Office of the Director, National Institutes of Health (NIH), hosted the symposium titled Diet, Epigenetic Events, and Cancer Prevention, on September 26–27, 2007. The objectives of the symposium were 1) to identify voids that are impeding progress in basic, translational, and clinical research related to the use of bioactive food components (BFCs) in cancer prevention, and 2) to provide information about new tools to facilitate epigenetic research. The 2007 symposium represented a continuation of a previous trans-Department of Health and Human Services workshop on Diet, DNA Methylation Processes and Health, held in August, 2001. That workshop gave rise to a number of publications2 as well as an NCI Funding Opportunity Announcement (as a Request for Applications) that led to the funding of 10 projects in collaboration with ODS. NCI continues to support research on diet, epigenetic events, and cancer prevention through active funding opportunities currently available in the NIH Guide …

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