Cancer initiation and progression toward malignant stages occur as the results of accumulating genetic alterations and epigenetic dysregulation. During the last decade, the development of next generation sequencing (NGS) technologies and the increasing pan-genomic knowledge have revolutionized how we consider the evolving epigenetic landscapes during homeostasis and tumor progression. DNA methylation represents the best studied mark and is considered as a common mechanism of epigenetic regulation in normal homeostasis and cancer. A remarkable amount of work has recently started clarifying the central role played by DNA methylation dynamics on the maintenance of cell identity and on cell fate decisions during the different steps of normal development and tumor evolution. Importantly, a growing number of studies show that DNA methylation is key in the maintenance of adult stemness and in orchestrating commitment in multiple ways. Perturbations of the normal DNA methylation patterns impair the homeostatic balance and can lead to tumor initiation. Therefore, DNA methylation represents an interesting therapeutic target to recover homeostasis in tumor stem cells.
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