New tools for old drugs: Functional genetic screens to optimize current chemotherapy

Gerhards, Nora Merete; Rottenberg, Sven (2018). New tools for old drugs: Functional genetic screens to optimize current chemotherapy. Drug Resistance Updates, 36, pp. 30-46. Elsevier 10.1016/j.drup.2018.01.001

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Despite substantial advances in the treatment of various cancers, many patients still receive anti-cancer therapies that hardly eradicate tumor cells but inflict considerable side effects. To provide the best treatment regimen for an individual patient, a major goal in molecular oncology is to identify predictive markers for a personalized therapeutic strategy. Regarding novel targeted anti-cancer therapies, there are usually good markers available. Unfortunately, however, targeted therapies alone often result in rather short remissions and little cytotoxic effect on the cancer cells. Therefore, classical chemotherapy with frequent long remissions, cures, and a clear effect on cancer cell eradication remains a corner stone in current anti-cancer therapy. Reliable biomarkers which predict the response of tumors to classical chemotherapy are rare, in contrast to the situation for targeted therapy. For the bulk of cytotoxic therapeutic agents, including DNA-damaging drugs, drugs targeting microtubules or antimetabolites, there are still no reliable biomarkers used in the clinic to predict tumor response. To make progress in this direction, meticulous studies of classical chemotherapeutic drug action and resistance mechanisms are required. For this purpose, novel functional screening technologies have emerged as successful technologies to study chemotherapeutic drug response in a variety of models. They allow a systematic analysis of genetic contributions to a drug-responsive or -sensitive phenotype and facilitate a better understanding of the mode of action of these drugs. These functional genomic approaches are not only useful for the development of novel targeted anti-cancer drugs but may also guide the use of classical chemotherapeutic drugs by deciphering novel mechanisms influencing a tumor's drug response. Moreover, due to the advances of 3D organoid cultures from patient tumors and in vivo screens in mice, these genetic screens can be applied using conditions that are more representative of the clinical setting. Patient-derived 3D organoid lines furthermore allow the characterization of the "essentialome", the specific set of genes required for survival of these cells, of an individual tumor, which could be monitored over the course of treatment and help understanding how drug resistance evolves in clinical tumors. Thus, we expect that these functional screens will enable the discovery of novel cancer-specific vulnerabilities, and through clinical validation, move the field of predictive biomarkers forward. This review focuses on novel advanced techniques to decipher the interplay between genetic alterations and drug response.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Review Article)


05 Veterinary Medicine > Department of Infectious Diseases and Pathobiology (DIP) > Institute of Animal Pathology
05 Veterinary Medicine > Department of Infectious Diseases and Pathobiology (DIP)

Graduate School:

Graduate School for Cellular and Biomedical Sciences (GCB)

UniBE Contributor:

Gerhards, Nora Merete, Rottenberg, Sven


600 Technology > 630 Agriculture
500 Science > 570 Life sciences; biology








Nora Merete Gerhards

Date Deposited:

16 Apr 2018 16:22

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 15:10

Publisher DOI:


PubMed ID:





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