alexa Identifying and exploiting defects in the Fanconi anemia BRCA pathway in oncology.
Genetics & Molecular Biology

Genetics & Molecular Biology

Journal of Molecular and Genetic Medicine

Author(s): Stecklein SR, Jensen RA

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Abstract Defects in components of DNA repair pathways are responsible for numerous hereditary cancer syndromes and are also common in many sporadic malignancies. Inherited mutations in the breast cancer susceptibility genes BRCA1 and BRCA2 or components of the Fanconi anemia (FA) complex incite genomic instability and predispose to malignancy. The products of the BRCA and FA genes participate in a conserved DNA damage repair pathway that is responsible for repairing interstrand crosslinks and double-strand DNA breaks by homologous recombination. While the genetic instability resulting from FA/BRCA dysfunction contributes to cancer pathogenesis, deficiency of these genes also lends to therapeutic exploitation. Crosslinking agents and ionizing radiation induce damage in cancer cells that requires the FA/BRCA pathway to be resolved; thus cancers that are deficient in BRCA1, BRCA2, or any other component of the FA/BRCA pathway are hypersensitive to these agents. Moreover, emerging synthetic lethal strategies offer opportunities to selectively target cancer cells with defects in homologous recombination. Conversely, enhanced activity of the FA/BRCA pathway is responsible for acquired resistance to specific therapeutic agents, suggesting that both dysfunction and hyperfunction of the FA/BRCA repair machinery are rational targets for cancer therapy. Selection of specific cytotoxic agents based on repair capacity may improve responses and enable personalized cytotoxic chemotherapy. This article reviews the FA/BRCA pathway and current approaches to identify deficiencies within it, discusses synthetic lethality and enhanced repair capacity as causes of therapeutic hypersensitivity and resistance, respectively, and highlights recent studies that have linked FA/BRCA pathway function with therapeutic efficacy. Copyright © 2012 Mosby, Inc. All rights reserved. This article was published in Transl Res and referenced in Journal of Molecular and Genetic Medicine

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