Genetic instability influences drug response in cancer cells

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One of the main reasons why most patients with advanced cancer are not curable with the therapies available is the broad heterogeneity of cancer cells, inherently related to their genomic instability that reflects defects of cell cycle checkpoints and DNA mismatch repair (MMR). The present paper reviews today's knowledge of MMR. Microsatellite (DNA repetitive sequences) instability (MSI) used as a surrogate marker of MMR defects was associated with a predisposition to somatic mutations of several genes including those involved in the neoplastic transformation and tumor progression. Lynch syndrome is an autosomal dominant cancer predisposition syndrome caused by germ line mutation in genes involved in MMR such as hMLH1 or hMLH2, or less frequently hMLH6 or hPMS2; it is associated with a high risk of intestinal cancer (CRC) and other tumors including endometrial, stomach, kidney and brain. There is ample preclinical evidence that cells deficient in MMR are resistant to methylating agents and to some antimetabolites, including 5FU, which is the drug used most for the CRC, whereas they are equally sensitive to oxaliplatin and possibly more sensitive to irinotecan. More studies are needed on the importance of MMR for sensitivity to different anticancer regimens and drugs, so this knowledge can guide rational therapy according to the tumor MMR status.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1317-1324
Number of pages8
JournalCurrent Drug Targets
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 2010


  • Colon cancer
  • Microsatellite instability
  • Mismatch repair
  • Response to therapy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Drug Discovery
  • Pharmacology
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Molecular Medicine

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