Current (high throughput omics-based) data support the model that human (malignant) germ cell tumors are not initiated by somatic mutations, but, instead through a defined locked epigenetic status, representative of their cell of origin. This elegantly explains the role of both genetic susceptibility as well as environmental factors in the pathogenesis, referred to as ‘genvironment’. Moreover, it could also explain various epidemiological findings, including the rising incidence of this type of cancer in Western societies. In addition, it allows for identification of clinically relevant and informative biomarkers both for diagnosis and follow-up of individual patients. The current status of these findings will be discussed, including the use of high throughput DNA methylation profiling for determination of differentially methylated regions (DMRs) as well as chromosomal copy number variation (CNV). Finally, the potential value of methylation-specific tumor DNA fragments (i.e., XIST promotor) as well as embryonic microRNAs as molecular biomarkers for cancer detection in liquid biopsies will be presented.

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Journal International journal of molecular sciences
Lobo, J., Gillis, A.J.M, Jeronimo, C, Henrique, R, & Looijenga, L.H.J. (2019). Human Germ Cell Tumors are Developmental Cancers: Impact of Epigenetics on Pathobiology and Clinic. International journal of molecular sciences, 20(2). doi:10.3390/ijms20020258