Host genetic profiling to increase drug safety in colorectal cancer from discovery to implementation

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Adverse events affect the pharmacological treatment of approximately 90% of colorectal cancer (CRC) patients at any stage of the disease. Chemotherapy including fluoropyrimidines, irinotecan, and oxaliplatin is the cornerstone of the pharmacological treatment of CRC. The introduction of novel targeted agents, as anti-EGFR (i.e. cetuximab, panitumumab) and antiangiogenic (i.e. bevacizumab, ziv-aflibercept, regorafenib, and ramucirumab) molecules, into the oncologist's toolbox has led to significant improvements in the life expectancy of advanced CRC patients, but with a substantial increase in toxicity burden. In this respect, pharmacogenomics has largely been applied to the personalization of CRC chemotherapy, focusing mainly on the study of inhered polymorphisms in genes encoding phase I and II enzymes, ATP-binding cassette (ABC)/solute carrier (SLC) membrane transporters, proteins involved in DNA repair, folate pathway and immune response. These research efforts have led to the identification of some validated genetic markers of chemotherapy toxicity, for fluoropyrimidines and irinotecan. No validated genetic determinants of oxaliplatin-specific toxicity, as peripheral neuropathy, has thus far been established. The contribution of host genetic markers in predicting the toxicity associated with novel targeted agents’ administration is still controversial due to the heterogeneity of published data. Pharmacogenomics guidelines have been published by some international scientific consortia such as the Clinical Pharmacogenomics Implementation Consortium (CPIC) and the Dutch Pharmacogenetics Working Group (DPWG) strongly suggesting a pre-treatment dose adjustment of irinotecan based on UGT1A1*28 genotype and of fluoropyrimidines based on some DPYD genetic variants, to increase treatment safety. However, these recommendations are still poorly applied at the patient's bedside. Several ongoing projects in the U.S. and Europe are currently evaluating how pharmacogenomics can be implemented successfully in daily clinical practice. The majority of drug-related adverse events are still unexplained, and a great deal of ongoing research is aimed at improving knowledge of the role of pharmacogenomics in increasing treatment safety. In this review, the issue of pre-treatment identification of CRC patients at risk of toxicity via the analysis of patients’ genetic profiles is addressed. Available pharmacogenomics guidelines with ongoing efforts to implement them in clinical practice and new exploratory markers for clinical validation are described.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)18-40
Number of pages23
JournalDrug Resistance Updates
Publication statusPublished - Jul 1 2018


  • Colorectal cancer
  • Implementation
  • Pharmacogenetics
  • Polymorphism
  • Toxicity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Pharmacology
  • Cancer Research
  • Infectious Diseases
  • Pharmacology (medical)

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