PerspectiveCANCER

Cancer by super-enhancer

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Science  12 Dec 2014:
Vol. 346, Issue 6215, pp. 1291-1292
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaa3247

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Summary

Most recurring somatic mutations in cancer affect protein-coding regions, either through activating oncogenes or inactivating tumor suppressors (1). However, several classes of mutations have been identified that affect the much larger noncoding regions of the genome, leading to changes in gene expression. These include large-scale genomic rearrangements that bring a strongly active promoter next to an oncogene, or place oncogene promoters under the influence of strong transcriptional enhancers (see the figure, panel A). On page 1373 of this issue, Mansour et al. (2) identify a very small mutation in ∼5% of T cell acute lymphoblastic leukemias (T-ALL; see the figure, panel B) that generates a large, powerful enhancer capable of driving tumorigenesis.