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Cisplatin or carboplatin is commonly used with gemcitabine, docetaxel, paclitaxel or vinorelbine as chemotherapy doublets in the treatment of advanced non-small cell lung cancer. Several randomized trials have failed to identify major differences in survival between any of these doublets. This lack of evidence for improvement in survival with any chemotherapy regimen has created a tabula rasa in which no more large randomized trials should be conducted with out including a genetic analysis. Patients see survival as their major concern, and other considerations, such as cost of treatment and qualify of life, are relegated to lower positions. Genetic alterations related to the transcription-coupled repair pathway of the nucleotide excision repair system (TC-NER) have revealed the subset of patients who are resistant to cisplatin. TC-NER involves genes that are deficient in rare inborn disorders such as Cockayne syndrome and xeroderma pigmentosum. For a long time, ERCC1 mRNA levels have been known to correlate with DNA repair capacity in various tissues. Levels of DNA cisplatin adducts in peripheral blood and buccal mucosa cells predict chemotherapy response, and high ERCC1 mRNA levels have been related to chemoresistance in ovarian cancer and in malignant lymphocytes from chronic lymphocytic leukemia. Moreover , in some instances, mRNA expression has been correlated with polymorphisms. Overexpression of ERCC1 correlates with poor survival gemcitabine/cisplatin-treated non-small cell lung cancer patients. An ongoing customized ERCC1-based chemotherapy trial has been established on this knowledge. Patients are randomized to the control arm of cisplatin/docetaxel is combined with cisplatin or gemcitabine according to ERCC1 levels. To date, 80 patients have been included. At the preclinical level, ERCC1 and XPD mRNA expression correlate with each other, and overexpression of XPD causes selective cisplatin resistance in human tumor cell lines. Some XPD polymorphisms have been associated with lower DNA repair capacity. In our experience, time to disease progression is significantly higher in gemcitabine/cisplatin-treated patients with the Lys751Gln genotype (9.6 months) than in those with the Lys751Lys genotype (4.2 months; p = 0.03). Other polymorphisms involved in parallel DNA repair systems may well provide the same information, indicating a high degree of biological redundancy. The overexpression of the subunit M1 of ribonucleotide reductase (RRM1) has been linked to gemcitabine resistance in our retrospective assessment. Preliminary findings indicate that a subset of gemcitabine/cisplatin-treated patients with low ERCC1 and RRM1 mRNA levels show a significantly longer survival. This highlights the possibilities of individually tailored chemotherapy. However, in patients treated with cisplatin/vinorelbine, the opposite effect has been observed. Patients with Lys751Lys had a longer time to progression. When docetaxel was added to gemcitabine/cisplatin, patients with Lys751Lys also had better survival. Our findings indicate that TC-NER status can help to decide between cisplatin/gemcitabine and docetaxel/ cisplatin. TC-NER-dependent activity is similar to other anticancer agents that cause DNA-binding enzymes to kill cells (topoisomerase inhibitors). At least 50% of non-small cell lung cancer patients harbor Lys751Lys and can benefit from docetaxel/ cisplatin treatment. Genes involved in spindle formation, centrosome functions and mRNA transport along the microtubule tracks should provide further information on potential markers of docetaxel resistance.

Original publication




Journal article


Drugs of today (Barcelona, Spain : 1998)

Publication Date





775 - 786


Medical Oncology Service, Hospital Germans Trias i Pujol, Badalona (Barcelona), Spain.


Humans, Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung, Lung Neoplasms, Cisplatin, DNA Helicases, Ribonucleotide Reductases, Proteins, DNA-Binding Proteins, Transcription Factors, DNA Adducts, Deoxycytidine, Antineoplastic Agents, Genetic Markers, Survival Rate, DNA Repair, Drug Resistance, Neoplasm, Polymorphism, Genetic, Xeroderma Pigmentosum Group D Protein, Clinical Trials as Topic