Epigenetic alterations are involved in every step of carcinogenesis. The development of chromatin-modifying agents (CMAs) has provided the ability to fight cancer by reversing these alterations. Currently, four CMAs have been approved for cancer treatment; two DNA demethylating agents and two deacetylase inhibitors. A number of promising CMAs are undergoing clinical trials in several cancer types. Moreover, already approved CMAs are still under clinical investigation to improve their efficacy and to extend their use to a broader panel of cancers. Combinatorial treatments with CMAs are already considered a promising strategy to improve clinical benefits and to limit side effects. The real mechanisms by which these CMAs allow the improvement and remission of patients are still obscure. A deeper analysis of the molecular features expressed by responding patients should be performed to reveal this information. In this review, we focus on clinical trials with CMAs, discussing the success and the pitfalls of this new class of anti-cancer drugs. Copyright © 2012 Elsevier Masson SAS. All rights reserved.