Tumor cell populations display a remarkable extent of variability in non-genetic characteristics such as DNA methylation, histone modification patterns, and differentiation levels of individual cells. It remains to be elucidated whether non-genetic heterogeneity is simply a byproduct of tumor evolution or instead a manifestation of a higher-order tissue organization that is maintained within the neoplasm to establish a differentiation hierarchy, a favorable microenvironment, or a buffer against changing selection pressures during tumorigenesis. Here, we review recent findings on epigenetic diversity, particularly heterogeneity in DNA methylation patterns in hematologic malignancies. We also address the implications of epigenetic heterogeneity for the clonal evolution of tumors and discuss its effects on gene expression and other genome functions in cancer.
Copyright © 2014. Published by Elsevier B.V.

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Franziska Michor uses the tools of theoretical evolutionary biology, applied mathematics, statistics, and computational biology to address important questions in cancer research.

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