Genetic Risk Profiles for Cancer Susceptibility and Therapy Response

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Abstract

Cells in the body are permanently attacked by DNA-reactive species, both from intracellular and environmental sources. Inherited and acquired deficiencies in host defense mechanisms against DNA damage (metabolic and DNA repair enzymes) can modify cancer susceptibility as well as therapy response. Genetic profiles should help to identify high-risk individuals who subsequently can be enrolled in preventive measures or treated by tailored therapy regimens. Some of our attempts to define such risk profiles are presented. Cancer susceptibility: Single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in metabolic and repair genes were investigated in a hospital-based lung cancer case—control study. When evaluating the risk associated with different genotypes for N-acetyltransferases (Wikman et al. 2001) and glutathione-S-transferases (Risch et al. 2001), it is mandatory to distinguish between the three major histological subtypes of lung tumors. A promoter polymorphism of the myeloperoxidase gene MPO was shown to decrease lung cancer susceptibility mainly in small cell lung cancer (SCLC) (Dally et al. 2002). The CYP3A4*1B allele was also linked to an increased SCLC risk and in smoking women increased the risk of lung cancer eightfold (Dally et al. 2003b). Polymorphisms in DNA repair genes were shown to modulate lung cancer risk in smokers, and reduced DNA repair capacity elevated the disease risk (Rajaee-Behbahani et al. 2001). Investigations of several DNA repair gene variants revealed that lung cancer risk was only moderately affected by a single variant but was enhanced up to approximately threefold by specific risk allele combinations (Popanda et al. 2004). Therapy response: Interindividual differences in therapy response are consistently observed with cancer chemotherapeutic agents. Initial results from ongoing studies showed that certain polymorphisms in drug transporter genes (ABCB1) differentially affect response outcome in histological subgroups of lung cancer. Stronger beneficial effects were seen in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) patients following gemcitabine and in SCLC patients following etoposide-based treatment. Several DNA repair parameters (polymorphisms, RNA expression, and DNA repair capacity) were measured in vitro in lymphocytes of patients before radiotherapy and correlated with the occurrence of acute side effects (radio-hypersensitivity). Our initial analysis of several repair gene variants in breast cancer patients (n=446) who received radiotherapy revealed no association of single polymorphisms and the development of side effects (moist desquamation of the irradiated normal skin). The risk for this side effect was, however, strongly reduced in normal weight women carrying a combination of XRCC1 399Gln and APE1 148Glu alleles, indicating that these variants afford some protection against radio-hypersensitivity (Chang-Claude et al. 2005). Based on these data we conclude that specific metabolic and DNA repair gene variants can affect cancer risk and therapy outcome. Predisposition to hereditary cancer syndromes is dominated by the strong effects of some high-penetrance tumor susceptibility genes, while predisposition to sporadic cancer is influenced by the combination of multiple low-penetrance genes, of which as a major challenge, many disease-relevant combinations remain to be identified. Before translating these findings into clinical use and application for public health measures, large populationbased studies and validation of the results will be required.