Videos & Links

Epigenetics and Cancer


What is Epigenetics?

Here we present a series of four sketch videos about epigenetics, created by Armando Hasudungan in collaboration with Professor Susan Clark and Dr Kate Patterson here at the Garvan Institute.  They have been created for a broad, non-expert audience to highlight key messages about the role epigenetics plays in biological processes like development and diseases such as cancer.

Epigenetics Basics
Each of our cells contains the same DNA sequence, the same genetic code. So how can cells that contain the same genetic code be so different? What makes a muscle cell different to a liver cell? The answers lie in epigenetics...
Epigenetics & Development
Epigenetic patterns are established during embryonic development and maintained during cell division. Epigenetic patterns in each cell are exquisitely programmed but potentially can be altered by our environment. This video explains how the hypothesis of the developmental origins of health and disease proposes that not only are we what we eat but that we could also be what our parents and even our grandparents ate.


Epigenetics & Cancer
In normal, healthy cells, two epigenetic processes -DNA methylation and DNA de-methylation- are maintained in a delicate balance. This balance is disrupted in cancer. Gene regions that are typically unmethylated in healthy cells commonly become highly methylated in cancer, and associated genes are silenced. Other regions of DNA become de-methylated in cancer, and overall the DNA of cancer cells becomes disorganised  and very unstable. Genes responsible for stopping cancer growth, also called tumour suppressor genes, are switched off in cancer cells, allowing cancers to grow unchecked.


Epigenetics & Biomarkers
Cancer is a disease of the DNA. In cancer cells, there are changes to both the genetic and epigenetic profile. We are now able to determine changes in epigenetic patterns in an individual’s DNA sequence. Knowing specific epigenetic patterns or signatures for specific cancer types can help provide biomarkers for detection and prognosis, and potentially aid in the development of individualised therapies for cancer patients.




Epigenetics Research at Garvan


Tagging DNA: Mislabelling the Cancer Genome

This animation by Dr Kate Patterson shows how tiny tags called methyl groups can be added to DNA to affect gene expression. In cancer the pattern of methylation changes, such that some genes that should be on are switched off and some genes that should be off are switched on. Unlike the genetic code that can not be easily changed, the methylation or epigenetic pattern can be altered with drug therapy.


Australian Epigenetics Alliance - AEpiA

In 2008, Professor Susan Clark brought a handful of epigenetics researchers from Australia together to form the Australian Epigenetics Alliance.  Governed by a committee of representatives from each Australian state, the AEpiA has now grown to a membership of more than 250, with members spanning not only Australia, but the globe. Last year the AEpiA hosted its sixth biennial flagship conference, Epigenetics 2015 in Tasmania, in November, and plans are underway for Epigenetics 2017 in Queensland.

Division Overview

Division Core Strengths Diagram