, Volume 55, Issue 1-3, pp 100-115

Using functional genomics to overcome therapeutic resistance in hematological malignancies

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Despite great advances in our understanding of the driving events involved in malignant transformation, only a small number of oncogenic drivers have been targeted and translated into tangible clinical benefit. Moreover, even when a targeted therapy can be shown to effectively inhibit an oncogenic driver, leading to cancer remission, disease persistence and/or relapse is typically inevitable. Reemergence of the cancer can result from either intrinsic or acquired resistance mechanisms that result in failure to eliminate all cancer cells. Intrinsic mechanisms of resistance include tumor heterogeneity and pathways that can compensate for the inhibition of the oncogenic driver. Acquired resistance mechanisms include mutation of the oncogenic driver to directly prevent drug-mediated inhibition and the activation of compensatory survival pathways. RNA interference (RNAi)-based screening provides a powerful approach for the interrogation of both intrinsic and acquired resistance mechanisms. The availability of short interfering (si)RNA libraries targeting all human and mouse genes has made it possible to perform large-scale unbiased screens to identify pathways that are specifically required in cancer cells of particular genotypes or following particular treatments, facilitating the design of potential new therapeutic strategies that may limit resistance mechanisms. In this review, we will discuss how RNAi screens can be used to uncover critical growth and survival pathways and aid in the identification of novel therapeutic targets for improved treatment of hematological malignancies.