The FA/BRCA Pathway Identified as the Major Predictor of Cisplatin Response in Head and Neck Cancer by Functional Genomics

Sanne R Martens-de Kemp, Arjen Brink, Ida H van der Meulen, Renée X de Menezes, Dennis E Te Beest, C René Leemans, Victor W van Beusechem, Boudewijn J M Braakhuis, Ruud H Brakenhoff

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Patients with advanced stage head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) are often treated with cisplatin-containing chemoradiation protocols. Although cisplatin is an effective radiation sensitizer, it causes severe toxicity and not all patients benefit from the combination treatment. HNSCCs expectedly not responding to cisplatin may better be treated with surgery and postoperative radiation or cetuximab and radiation, but biomarkers to personalize chemoradiotherapy are not available. We performed an unbiased genome-wide functional genetic screen in vitro to identify genes that influence the response to cisplatin in HNSCC cells. By siRNA-mediated knockdown, we identified the Fanconi anemia/BRCA pathway as the predominant pathway for cisplatin response in HNSCC cells. We also identified the involvement of the SHFM1 gene in the process of DNA cross-link repair. Furthermore, expression profiles based on these genes predict the prognosis of radiation- and chemoradiation-treated head and neck cancer patients. This genome-wide functional analysis designated the genes that are important in the response of HNSCC to cisplatin and may guide further biomarker validation. Cisplatin imaging as well as biomarkers that indicate the activity of the Fanconi anemia/BRCA pathway in the tumors are the prime candidates. Mol Cancer Ther; 16(3); 540-50. ©2016 AACR.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)540-550
Number of pages11
JournalMolecular Cancer Therapeutics
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2017

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