The chemosensitivity of testicular germ cell tumors

Cell Oncol (Dordr). 2014 Apr;37(2):79-94. doi: 10.1007/s13402-014-0168-6. Epub 2014 Apr 2.


Although rare cancers overall, testicular germ cell tumors (TGCTs) are the most common type of cancer in young males below 40 years of age. Both subtypes of TGCTs, i.e., seminomas and non-seminomas, are highly curable and the majority of even metastatic patients may expect to be cured. These high cure rates are not due to the indolent nature of these cancers, but rather to their sensitivity to chemotherapy (and for seminomas to radiotherapy). The delineation of the cause of chemosensitivity at the molecular level is of paramount importance, because it may provide insights into the minority of TGCTs that are chemo-resistant and, thereby, provide opportunities for specific therapeutic interventions aimed at reverting them to chemosensitivity. In addition, delineation of the molecular basis of TGCT chemo-sensitivity may be informative for the cause of chemo-resistance of other more common types of cancer and, thus, may create new therapeutic leads. p53, a frequently mutated tumor suppressor in cancers in general, is not mutated in TGCTs, a fact that has implications for their chemo-sensitivity. Oct4, an embryonic transcription factor, is uniformly expressed in the seminoma and embryonic carcinoma components of non-seminomas, and its interplay with p53 may be important in the chemotherapy response of these tumors. This interplay, together with other features of TGCTs such as the gain of genetic material from the short arm of chromosome 12 and the association with disorders of testicular development, will be discussed in this paper and integrated in a unifying hypothesis that may explain their chemo-sensitivity.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Apoptosis / drug effects
  • Cell Cycle Checkpoints / drug effects
  • DNA Damage
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neoplasms, Germ Cell and Embryonal / drug therapy*
  • Neoplasms, Germ Cell and Embryonal / pathology
  • Testicular Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Testicular Neoplasms / pathology
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53 / metabolism


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53

Supplementary concepts

  • Testicular Germ Cell Tumor