Testicular cancer: Determinants of cisplatin sensitivity and novel therapeutic opportunities

Cancer Treat Rev. 2020 Aug:88:102054. doi: 10.1016/j.ctrv.2020.102054. Epub 2020 Jun 8.


Testicular cancer (TC) is the most common solid tumor among men aged between 15 and 40 years. TCs are highly aneuploid and the 12p isochromosome is the most frequent chromosomal abnormality. The mutation rate is of TC is low, with recurrent mutations in KIT and KRAS observed only at low frequency in seminomas. Overall cure rates are high, even in a metastatic setting, resulting from excellent cisplatin sensitivity of TCs. Factors contributing to the observed cisplatin sensitivity include defective DNA damage repair and a hypersensitive apoptotic response to DNA damage. Nonetheless, around 10-20% of TC patients with metastatic disease cannot be cured by cisplatin-based chemotherapy. Resistance mechanisms include downregulation of OCT4 and failure to induce PUMA and NOXA, elevated levels of MDM2, and hyperactivity of the PI3K/AKT/mTOR pathway. Several pre-clinical approaches have proven successful in overcoming cisplatin resistance, including specific targeting of PARP, MDM2 or AKT/mTOR combined with cisplatin. Finally, patient-derived xenograft models hold potential for mechanistic studies and pre-clinical validation of novel therapeutic strategies in TC. While clinical trials investigating targeted drugs have been disappointing, pre-clinical successes with chemotherapy and targeted drug combinations fuel the need for further investigation in clinical setting.

Keywords: Cisplatin; Cisplatin resistance; Germ cell tumors; Targeted therapy; Testicular cancer.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols / therapeutic use*
  • Cisplatin / administration & dosage
  • Cisplatin / pharmacology*
  • Drug Resistance, Neoplasm
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Molecular Targeted Therapy
  • Neoplasms, Germ Cell and Embryonal / drug therapy
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Testicular Neoplasms / drug therapy*


  • Cisplatin

Supplementary concepts

  • Testicular Germ Cell Tumor