The DNA damage response pathway as a land of therapeutic opportunities for colorectal cancer

G Mauri, S Arena, S Siena, A Bardelli, A Sartore-Bianchi

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


BACKGROUND: Colorectal cancer (CRC) represents a major cause of cancer deaths worldwide. Although significant progress has been made by molecular and immune therapeutic approaches, prognosis of advanced stage disease is still dismal. Alterations in the DNA damage response (DDR) pathways are emerging as novel targets for treatment across different cancer types. However, even though preclinical studies have shown the potential exploitation of DDR alterations in CRC, systematic and comprehensive testing is lagging and clinical development is based on analogies with other solid tumors according to a tissue-agnostic paradigm. Recently, functional evidence from patient-derived xenografts and organoids have suggested that maintenance with PARP inhibitors might represent a therapeutic opportunity in CRC patients previously responsive to platinum-based treatment.

DESIGN AND RESULTS: In this review, we highlight the most promising preclinical data and systematically summarize published clinical trials in which DDR inhibitors have been used for CRC and provide evidence that disappointing results have been mainly due to a lack of clinical and molecular selection.

CONCLUSIONS: Future preclinical and translational research will help in better understanding the role of DDR alterations in CRC and pave the way to novel strategies that might have a transformative impact on treatment by identifying new therapeutic options including tailored use of standard chemotherapy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1135-1147
Number of pages13
JournalAnnals of oncology : official journal of the European Society for Medical Oncology
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2020


  • Colonic Neoplasms
  • Colorectal Neoplasms/drug therapy
  • DNA Damage
  • Humans
  • Platinum/therapeutic use
  • Poly(ADP-ribose) Polymerase Inhibitors/therapeutic use


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