Overexpression of MYC is a hallmark of many human cancers. The MYC oncogene has long been thought to execute its neoplastic functions by acting as a classic transcription factor, deregulating the expression of a large number of specific target genes. However, MYC’s influence on many of these target genes is rather modest and there is little overlap between MYC regulated genes in different cell types, leaving many mechanistic questions unanswered. Recent advances in the field challenge the dogma further, revealing a role for MYC that extends beyond the traditional concept of a sequence-specific transcription factor. In this article, we review MYC’s function as a regulator of the cancer epigenome and transcriptome. We outline our current understanding of how MYC regulates chromatin structure in both a site-specific and genome-wide fashion, and highlight the implications for therapeutic strategies for cancers with high MYC expression.
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