Epigenetic alterations are associated with major pathologies including cancer. Epigenetic dysregulation, such as aberrant histone acetylation, altered DNA methylation, or modified chromatin organization, contribute to oncogenesis by inactivating tumor suppressor genes and activating oncogenic pathways. Targeting epigenetic cancer hallmarks can be harnessed as an immunotherapeutic strategy, exemplified by the use of pharmacological inhibitors of DNA methyltransferases (DNMT) and histone deacetylases (HDAC) that can result in the release from the tumor of danger-associated molecular patterns (DAMPs) on one hand and can (re-)activate the expression of tumor-associated antigens on the other hand. This finding suggests that epigenetic modifiers and more specifically the DNA methylation status may change the interaction of chromatin with chaperon proteins including HMGB1, thereby contributing to the antitumor immune response. In this review, we detail how epigenetic modifiers can be used for stimulating therapeutically relevant anticancer immunity when used as stand-alone treatments or in combination with established immunotherapies.
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