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Clin Cancer Res. 2011 Jun 15;17(12):3858-64. doi: 10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-10-2044. Epub 2011 Mar 8.

Transcription-induced DNA double strand breaks: both oncogenic force and potential therapeutic target?

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Authors' Affiliation: Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland.


An emerging model of transcriptional activation suggests that induction of transcriptional programs, for instance by stimulating prostate or breast cells with androgens or estrogens, respectively, involves the formation of DNA damage, including DNA double strand breaks (DSB), recruitment of DSB repair proteins, and movement of newly activated genes to transcription hubs. The DSB can be mediated by the class II topoisomerase TOP2B, which is recruited with the androgen receptor and estrogen receptor to regulatory sites on target genes and is apparently required for efficient transcriptional activation of these genes. These DSBs are recognized by the DNA repair machinery triggering the recruitment of repair proteins such as poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase 1 (PARP1), ATM, and DNA-dependent protein kinase (DNA-PK). If illegitimately repaired, such DSBs can seed the formation of genomic rearrangements like the TMPRSS2-ERG fusion oncogene in prostate cancer. Here, we hypothesize that these transcription-induced, TOP2B-mediated DSBs can also be exploited therapeutically and propose that, in hormone-dependent tumors like breast and prostate cancers, a hormone-cycling therapy, in combination with topoisomerase II poisons or inhibitors of the DNA repair components PARP1 and DNA-PK, could overwhelm cancer cells with transcription-associated DSBs. Such strategies may find particular utility in cancers, like prostate cancer, which show low proliferation rates, in which other chemotherapeutic strategies that target rapidly proliferating cells have had limited success.

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