Pharmacogenetics for individualized cancer chemotherapy

Pharmacol Ther. 2005 Aug;107(2):155-76. doi: 10.1016/j.pharmthera.2005.02.005.


The same doses of medication cause considerable heterogeneity in efficacy and toxicity across human populations. Genetic factors are thought to represent important determinants of drug efficacy and toxicity. Pharmacogenetics focuses on the prediction of the response of tumor and normal tissue to standard therapy by genetic profiling and, thereby, to select the most appropriate medication at optimal doses for each individual patient. In the present review, we discuss the relevance of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP) in genes, whose gene products act upstream of the actual drug target sites, that is, drug transporters and drug metabolizing phase I and II enzymes, or downstream of them, that is, apoptosis-regulating genes and chemokines. SNPs in relevant genes, which encode for proteins that interact with anticancer drugs, were also considered, that is, enzymes of DNA biosynthesis and metabolism, DNA repair enzymes, and proteins of the mitotic spindle. A significant body of evidence supports the concept of predicting drug efficacy and toxicity by SNP genotyping. As the efficacy of cancer chemotherapy, as well as the drug-related toxicity in normal tissues is multifactorial in nature, sophisticated approaches such as genome-wide linkage analyses and integrate drug pathway profiling may improve the predictive power compared with genotyping of single genes. The implementation of pharmacogenetics into clinical routine diagnostics including genotype-based recommendations for treatment decisions and risk assessment for practitioners represents a challenge for the future.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / adverse effects
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacokinetics
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Biotransformation
  • Drug Resistance, Neoplasm / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Neoplasms / genetics
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Pharmacogenetics*
  • Polymorphism, Genetic


  • Antineoplastic Agents