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For the past 30 years, my laboratory has concentrated its work on demonstrating that the epigenetic consequences of foreign DNA insertion into established mammalian genomes -de novo DNA methylation of the integrate and alterations of methylation patterns across the recipient genome - are essential elements in setting the stage towards oncogenic transformation. We have primarily studied human adenovirus type 12 (Ad12) which induces undifferentiated tumors in Syrian hamsters (Mesocricetus auratus) either at the site of subcutaneous Ad12 injection or intraperitoneally upon intramuscular injection. Up to 90% of the hamsters injected with Ad12 develop tumors within 3-6 weeks. Integration of foreign DNA, its de novo methylation, and the consequences of insertion on the cellular methylation and transcription profiles have been studied in detail. While viral infections are a frequent source of foreign genomes entering mammalian and other hosts and often their genomes, we have also pursued the fate of food-ingested foreign DNA in the mouse organism. The persistence of this DNA in the animals is transient and there is no evidence for the expression or germ line fixation of foreign DNA. Nevertheless, the occasional cell that carries integrated genomes from that foreign source deserves the oncologist's sustained interest.


Walter Doerfler. Epigenetic mechanisms in human adenovirus type 12 oncogenesis. Seminars in cancer biology. 2009 Jun;19(3):136-43

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PMID: 19429476

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