Targeting the DNA Damage Response in Cancer

Mol Cell. 2015 Nov 19;60(4):547-60. doi: 10.1016/j.molcel.2015.10.040.


An underlying hallmark of cancers is their genomic instability, which is associated with a greater propensity to accumulate DNA damage. Historical treatment of cancer by radiotherapy and DNA-damaging chemotherapy is based on this principle, yet it is accompanied by significant collateral damage to normal tissue and unwanted side effects. Targeted therapy based on inhibiting the DNA damage response (DDR) in cancers offers the potential for a greater therapeutic window by tailoring treatment to patients with tumors lacking specific DDR functions. The recent approval of olaparib (Lynparza), the poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP) inhibitor for treating tumors harboring BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations, represents the first medicine based on this principle, exploiting an underlying cause of tumor formation that also represents an Achilles' heel. This review highlights the different concepts behind targeting DDR in cancer and how this can provide significant opportunities for DDR-based therapies in the future.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use
  • DNA Damage
  • DNA Repair / drug effects*
  • Genomic Instability / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Molecular Targeted Therapy
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Neoplasms / genetics


  • Antineoplastic Agents