Synthetic Lethality – Its Current Application and Potential in Oncological Treatment


Klin Onkol 2019; 32(Suppl 3): 19-24. DOI: 10.14735/amko20193S19.

Background: Synthetic lethality is a gene interaction where a defect in one of the interacting genes is compatible with cell viability, whereas the disruption of both genes leads to cell death. The discovery of the lethal effect of poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP) inhibitors in BRCA1/2 mutant cells has opened an important direction in the development of targeted therapy in oncology. The PARP inhibitor olaparib has become the first registered drug for recurrent high-grade serous ovarian cancer treatment based on synthetic lethality that has reached the clinic. Current research focuses on the combination of PARP inhibitors and inhibitors of kinases, which control the cell cycle, to prevent or overcome resistance to PARP inhibitors. There are also ongoing clinical trials which examine PARP inhibitor treatment in other types of cancers including tumours presenting the so-called BRCAness phenotype. Screenings for new synthetic lethalities which could serve as potential targets for new drug development have improved with the CRISPR/Cas9 technology, but another key problem persists in the screening efforts, namely the incomplete penetrance of synthetic lethality throughout a tumour cell population. Purpose: This paper summarises the current application of synthetic lethality principles in oncology and discusses the challenges in research focused on potential new drugs based on synthetic lethality.

Full text in PDF