Colorectal cancer (CRC) is one of the most frequently occurring malignancies worldwide, and the second leading cause of cancer related death in the Western World. Although early stage disease is curable by surgical resection alone, one half of patients with CRC will present with metastatic disease at some stage in the course of their disease. The most active drug in the treatment of CRC is 5-fluorouracil (5-FU) which is used in both the adjuvant and advanced settings. The use of adjuvant therapy is of proven benefit in Stage III CRC, however, its role in Stage II disease is less clear. There is therefore a need to identify those patients with early stage disease who will develop recurrent disease, and who would therefore benefit most from adjuvant treatment. In the advanced setting, the use of irinotecan and oxaliplatin in combination with 5-FU has proven beneficial, with yet further improvements in survival reported with the addition of new targeted agents such as bevacizumab. Despite this, a significant number of patients with advanced disease do not derive any benefit from the chemotherapy they receive, highlighting a need for the development of molecular or genomic markers predictive of response to these chemotherapeutic agents. This review will evaluate the recent advances in pharmacogenomics in CRC, in particular the development of predictive markers of response to chemotherapy. The successful identification of these markers of response will herald an era of personalised treatment, reducing treatment-related toxicity and improving outcome of patients with CRC.
Keywords: thymidine phosphorylase, dihydropyrimidine dehydrogenase, single-nucleotide polymorphism, Microsatellite instability, cDNA microarray profiling
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