Cancer metastasis remains a major clinical challenge for cancer treatment. It is therefore crucial to understand how cancer cells establish and maintain their metastatic traits. However, metastasis-specific genetic mutations have not been identified in most exome or genome sequencing studies. Emerging evidence suggests that key steps of metastasis are controlled by reversible epigenetic mechanisms, which can be targeted to prevent and treat the metastatic disease. A variety of epigenetic mechanisms were identified to regulate metastasis, including the well-studied DNA methylation and histone modifications. In the past few years, large scale chromatin structure alterations including reprogramming of the enhancers and chromatin accessibility to the transcription factors were shown to be potential driving force of cancer metastasis. To dissect the molecular mechanisms and functional output of these epigenetic changes, it is critical to use advanced techniques and alternative animal models for interdisciplinary and translational research on this topic. Here we summarize our current understanding of epigenetic aberrations in cancer progression and metastasis, and their implications in developing new effective metastasis-specific therapies.

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