A study in this issue demonstrates that epigenome-modifying drugs used in cancer chemotherapy induce transcription from thousands of previously unannotated transcription start sites, most of which are derived from ancient endogenous retroviruses (ERVs). This work, coupled with previous related findings, suggests that induction of ERVs, rather than direct effects on specific genes, may have a central role in the cellular responses to such agents and, in turn, their therapeutic efficacy.
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The authors declare no competing financial interests.
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Mager, D., Lorincz, M. Epigenetic modifier drugs trigger widespread transcription of endogenous retroviruses. Nat Genet 49, 974–975 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1038/ng.3902
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