Nuclear excision repair-based personalized therapy for non-small cell lung cancer: from hypothesis to reality

Int J Biochem Cell Biol. 2007;39(7-8):1318-28. doi: 10.1016/j.biocel.2007.05.006. Epub 2007 Jun 12.


The crucial 'flaw' in the existing treatment paradigm for non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) is the 'one size fits all approach'. Consequently, adjuvant chemotherapy is given to all patients to benefit a minority and, in the metastatic setting doublet chemotherapy only provides modest improvements in response rates and survival. A personalized approach of treatment selection is therefore desperately needed. Genetic information is stored in the chemical structure of DNA. To maintain the structural integrity of DNA, an intricate network of DNA repair systems have evolved. One of these is the nucleotide excision repair (NER), a highly versatile and sophisticated DNA damage removal pathway. We show here that this DNA repair mechanism is instrumental in defining prognosis and response to treatment. ERCC1, one of the proteins in this pathway, is measured to assess its functional status of the NER pathway. In patients with early stage NSCLC, low ERCC1 predicts for relapse and selects for patients who will benefit from adjuvant cisplatin-based chemotherapy. Conversely, ERCC1-positive resected patients have a better intrinsic prognosis and are not likely to benefit from platinum based chemotherapy. In a phase II trial in metastatic disease, we show that by tailoring chemotherapy using ERCC1 and RRM1 we can obtain 1-year survival of 60% (versus approximately 36% in historical controls) and response rates of 42% (versus 25% in historical controls). This approach is currently being validated in a prospective phase III trial. In the future, assessment of NER function may play a central role in NSCLC treatment decision making.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / metabolism
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / therapy*
  • Chemotherapy, Adjuvant*
  • Clinical Trials, Phase II as Topic
  • DNA Damage / physiology*
  • DNA Repair*
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / genetics
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / metabolism
  • Endonucleases / genetics
  • Endonucleases / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Lung Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Polymorphism, Genetic
  • Ribonucleoside Diphosphate Reductase
  • Tumor Suppressor Proteins / metabolism


  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Tumor Suppressor Proteins
  • RRM1 protein, human
  • Ribonucleoside Diphosphate Reductase
  • ERCC1 protein, human
  • Endonucleases