Introduction: DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs) are toxic DNA lesions that can be repaired by non-homologous end-joining (NHEJ) or homologous recombination (HR). Mutations in HR genes elicit a predisposition to cancer; yet, they also result in increased sensitivity to certain DNA damaging agents and poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP) inhibitors. To optimally implement PARP inhibitor treatment, it is important that patients with HR-deficient tumors are adequately selected.
Areas covered: Herein, the authors describe the HR pathway mechanistically and review the treatment of HR-deficient cancers, with a specific focus on PARP inhibition for BRCA1/2-mutated breast and ovarian cancer. In addition, mechanisms of acquired PARP inhibitor resistance are discussed. Furthermore, combination therapies with PARP inhibitors are reviewed, in the context of both HR-deficient and HR-proficient tumors and methods for proper patient selection are also discussed.
Expert opinion: Currently, only patients with germline or somatic BRCA1/2 mutations are eligible for PARP inhibitor treatment and only a proportion of patients respond. Patients with HR-deficient tumors caused by other (epi)genetic events may also benefit from PARP inhibitor treatment. Ideally, selection of eligible patients for PARP inhibitor treatment include a functional HR read-out, in which cancer cells are interrogated for their ability to perform HR repair and maintain replication fork stability.