Between a Rock and a Hard Place: An Epigenetic-Centric View of Testicular Germ Cell Tumors

Ratnakar Singh, Zeeshan Fazal, Sarah J. Freemantle, Michael J. Spinella

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Compared to many common solid tumors, the main genetic drivers of most testicular germ cell tumors (TGCTs) are unknown. Decades of focus on genomic alterations in TGCTs including awareness of a near universal increase in copies of chromosome 12p have failed to uncover exceptional driver genes, especially in genes that can be targeted therapeutically. Thus far, TGCT patients have missed out on the benefits of targeted therapies available to treat most other malignancies. In the past decade there has been a greater appreciation that epigenetics may play an especially prominent role in TGCT etiology, progression, and hypersensitivity to conventional chemotherapy. While genetics undoubtedly plays a role in TGCT biology, this mini-review will focus on the epigenetic “states” or features of testicular cancer, with an emphasis on DNA methylation, histone modifications, and miRNAs associated with TGCT susceptibility, initiation, progression, and response to chemotherapy. In addition, we comment on the current status of epigenetic-based therapy and epigenetic biomarker development for TGCTs. Finally, we suggest a unifying “rock and a hard place” or “differentiate or die” model where the tumorigenicity and curability of TGCTs are both dependent on common but still ill-defined epigenetic states.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1506
Issue number7
StatePublished - Apr 1 2021


  • testicular cancer
  • DNA methylation
  • testicular germ cell tumors
  • resistance
  • cisplatin
  • embryonal carcinoma
  • epigenetics
  • Testicular germ cell tumors
  • Testicular cancer
  • Cisplatin
  • Resistance
  • Epigenetics
  • Embryonal carcinoma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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