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Cell Cycle. 2005 Dec;4(12):1693-8. Epub 2005 Dec 15.

Why therapeutic response may not prolong the life of a cancer patient: selection for oncogenic resistance.

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Cancer Center, Ordway Research Institute, Albany, New York 12208, USA.


Most cancers do not respond to chemotherapy. Disappointedly, even objective clinical responses to anticancer therapy often do not translate into improvements in overall survival. To explain the response-survival paradox, it has been pointed out that effective therapy is ineffective against cancer stem cells, which replenish the tumor (causing relapse). In contrast, I discuss that, according to this scenario, patient survival will be prolonged at least by the duration of remission. Furthermore, stem-cell-based relapses will be sensitive to the initial therapy, and in theory cancer could be controlled indefinitely. To explain the paradox, I discuss that effective therapy selects for resistance among proliferating cancer cells. Importantly, mechanisms of resistance can be divided into nononcogenic (e.g., drug transporters and mutation in drug-targets) and oncogenic (e.g., apoptosis avoidance and cell cycle dysregulation). Oncogenic resistance is associated with highly aggressive cancer phenotype and, therefore, there is no increase in overall survival. I further suggest that (a) therapeutic response is a prerequisite for successful therapy, (b) resistance can be exploited for therapeutic advantage, (c) each response can be translated into increased survival, and (e) in slow growing tumors, cancer can be stopped without tumor shrinkage. Therapy will control cancer if it can selectively suppress proliferating cancer cells and will improve survival as long as acquired resistance can be exploited.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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