Managing drug resistance in cancer: lessons from HIV therapy

Nat Rev Cancer. 2012 Jun 7;12(7):494-501. doi: 10.1038/nrc3297.


Drug resistance is a common cause of treatment failure for HIV infection and cancer. The high mutation rate of HIV leads to genetic heterogeneity among viral populations and provides the seed from which drug-resistant clones emerge in response to therapy. Similarly, most cancers are characterized by extensive genetic, epigenetic, transcriptional and cellular diversity, and drug-resistant cancer cells outgrow their non-resistant peers in a process of somatic evolution. Patient-specific combination of antiviral drugs has emerged as a powerful approach for treating drug-resistant HIV infection, using genotype-based predictions to identify the best matched combination therapy among several hundred possible combinations of HIV drugs. In this Opinion article, we argue that HIV therapy provides a 'blueprint' for designing and validating patient-specific combination therapies in cancer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-HIV Agents / pharmacology
  • Anti-HIV Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Drug Resistance, Neoplasm / physiology*
  • Drug Resistance, Viral / physiology*
  • HIV Infections / drug therapy*
  • HIV Infections / virology
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Neoplasms / etiology
  • Neoplasms / pathology


  • Anti-HIV Agents
  • Antineoplastic Agents