Pharmacogenetics of anticancer drug sensitivity in pancreatic cancer

Elisa Giovannetti, Valentina Mey, Sara Nannizzi, Giuseppe Pasqualetti, Mario Del Tacca, Romano Danesi

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81 Citations (Scopus)


Chemotherapy has produced unsatisfactory results in pancreas cancer and novel approaches, including treatment tailoring by pharmacogenetic analysis and new molecular-targeted drugs, are required. The scarcity of effective therapies may reflect the lack of knowledge about the influence of tumor-related molecular abnormalities on responsiveness to drugs. Advances in the understanding of pancreas cancer biology have been made over the past decade, including the discovery of critical mutations in oncogenes (i.e., K-Ras) as well as the loss of tumor suppressor genes, such as TP53 and p16INK4. Other studies showed the dysregulation of the expression of proteins involved in the control of cell cycle, proliferation, apoptosis, and invasiveness, such as BcL-2, Akt, mdm2, and epidermal growth factor receptor. These characteristics might contribute to the aggressive behavior of pancreatic cancer and influence response to treatment. Indeed, the inactivation of p53 may explain the relative resistance to 5-fluorouracil, whereas Bcl-2 overexpression is associated with reduced sensitivity to gemcitabine. However, the future challenge of pancreas cancer chemotherapy relies on the identification of molecular markers that help in the selection of drugs best suited to the individual patient. Recent pharmacogenetic studies focused on genes encoding proteins directly involved in drug activity, showing the role of thymidylate synthase and human equilibrative nucleoside transporter-1 as prognostic factor in 5-fluorouracil- and gemcitabine-treated patients, respectively. Finally, inhibitors of signal transduction and angiogenesis are under extensive investigation, and several prospective trials have been devoted to this area. Pharmacogenetics is likely to play a central role in the personalization of treatment, to stratify patients based on their likelihood of response to both standard agents (i.e., gemcitabine/ nucleoside transporters) and targeted treatments (i.e., epidermal growth factor receptor gene mutations and/or amplification and tyrosine kinase inhibitors), Thus, molecular analysis should be implemented in the optimal management of the patient affected by pancreatic adenocarcinoma.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1387-1395
Number of pages9
JournalMolecular Cancer Therapeutics
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2006

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