Epigenetics and Cancer

Jonathan D. Licht, M.D.

Professor, Dept. of Medicine-Hematology/Oncology

Director and The Marshall E. Rinker Senior Chair, UF Health Cancer Center

Abstract: The uncontrolled growth invasion and spread of cancer cells is due in large part to abnormal activation or repression of genes.  While every cell of the body contains the same DNA, and the same set of genes, only a fraction of these genes are expressed in a particular tissue.  In the cell DNA is complexed with a set of proteins called histones.  Together DNA and histones are known as chromatin. Epigenetics refers to the process by which chromatin is chemically modified or physically altered to allow the tightly controlled expression of genes during cell growth, differentiation, development.  Mutations of the proteins that control chromatin are among the most common in cancer, in many cases driving cancer development.

Dr. Jonathan Licht is the Director of the newly NCI-designated University of Florida Health Cancer Center. Dr. Licht’s laboratory studies the role of abnormal gene expression in diseases such as multiple myeloma, childhood leukemia, melanoma and lung cancer. NCI funded for 30 years, Dr. Licht is an Associate Editor of Oncogene and serves on the editorial boards of Cancer Discovery, Cancer Cell, Cancer Research and Clinical Cancer Research. Dr. Licht has published over 200 articles, reviews and book chapters and has mentored over 40 graduate students and postdoctoral fellows and 20 faculty members. In 2021 he was the winner of the American Society of Hematology Basic Sciences mentor Award.

Core Standards

SC.912.L.14.6 Explain the significance of genetic factors, environmental factors, and pathogenic agents to health from the perspectives of both individual and public health.

SC.912.L.16.3 Describe the basic process of DNA replication and how it relates to the transmission and conservation of the genetic information

SC.912.L.16.4 Explain how mutations in the DNA sequence may or may not result in phenotypic change. Explain how mutations in gametes may result in phenotypic changes in offspring.

SC.912.L.16.5 Explain the basic processes of transcription and translation, and how they result in the expression of genes.

SC.912.L.16.6 Discuss the mechanisms for regulation of gene expression in prokaryotes and eukaryotes at transcription and translation level.

SC.912.L.16.8 Explain the relationship between mutation, cell cycle, and uncontrolled cell growth potentially resulting in cancer.

SC.912.L.16.10 Evaluate the impact of biotechnology on the individual, society and the environment, including medical and ethical issues.


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