Predicting drug response and toxicity based on gene polymorphisms

Crit Rev Oncol Hematol. 2005 Jun;54(3):171-96. doi: 10.1016/j.critrevonc.2005.01.005.


The sequencing of the human genome has allowed the identification of thousands of gene polymorphisms, most often single nucleotide polymorphims (SNP), which may play an important role in the expression level and activity of the corresponding proteins. When these polymorphisms occur at the level of drug metabolising enzymes or transporters, the disposition of the drug may be altered and, consequently, its efficacy may be compromised or its toxicity enhanced. Polymorphisms can also occur at the level of proteins directly involved in drug action, either when the protein is the target of the drug or when the protein is involved in the repair of drug-induced lesions. There again, these polymorphisms may lead to alterations in drug efficacy and/or toxicity. The identification of functional polymorphisms in patients undergoing chemotherapy may help the clinician prescribe the optimal drug combination or schedule and predict with more accuracy the response to these prescriptions. We have recorded in this review the polymorphisms that have been identified up till now in genes involved in anticancer drug activity. Some of them appear especially important in predicting drug toxicity and should be determined in routine before drug administration; this is the case of the most common variations of thiopurine methyltransferase for 6-mercaptopurine and of dihydropyrimidine dehydrogenase for fluorouracil. Other appear determinant for drug response, such as the common SNPs found in glutathione S-transferase P1 or xereoderma pigmentosum group D enzyme for the activity of oxaliplatin. However, confusion factors may exist between the role of gene polymorphisms in cancer risk or overall prognosis and their role in drug response.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme System / genetics
  • Drug Resistance, Neoplasm / genetics*
  • Drug-Related Side Effects and Adverse Reactions / genetics*
  • Enzymes / genetics
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Neoplasms / genetics
  • Polymorphism, Genetic*
  • Predictive Value of Tests*
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Enzymes
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme System