The epigenome constantly responds to environmental and genomic influences with a very high rate of epigenetic changes (much higher than the rate of mutation in DNA). Such changes to genes - dubbed epialleles - happen both in cancer cells and cells of the immune system. While the genome and epigenome are both inherited, the latter is increasingly a focus for cancer research. Unlike the genome, many of its variable effects on genes are reversible. As such, the epigenome presents tangible targets for cancer therapy.

Epigenetic drugs that turn up tumour-specific genes making cancer cells more obvious to the immune system are already being tested. Similarly there is a surge of interest in drugs that turn off genes that promote tumour growth or the ability to metastasise as well as drugs that turn on genes that suppress tumour growth.

Epigenetic drugs that modify the genes of immune cells are being evaluated as a means to improve our response to cancer. Turning on the TAP again seems a likely epigenetic candidate in the struggle to prevent cancer getting a foothold.

Science articles referenced in this feature article include:
Setiada et al 2005, Setiada et al 2007 and Sigalotti et al 2007