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Drugs that produce DNA interstrand crosslinks (ICLs), between the two complementary strands of the double helix, have an important role in chemotherapy regimens for cancer. Novel crosslinking agents, and targeting strategies involving DNA crosslinking agents, continue to be developed. The ability of cells to repair DNA ICLs is a critical determinant of sensitivity, and recent dinical studies indicate that DNA repair capacity is strongly implicated in both inherent tumour sensitivity and acquired drug resistance. A detailed understanding of the cellular mechanisms that act to eliminate these critical DNA lesions is clearly important. DNA ICLs present a complex challenge to DNA repair mechanisms because of the involvement of both DNA strands. It is now clear that cells from bacteria and yeast to mammals eliminate interstrand ICLs through the coordinated action of several DNA repair pathways. Recently, a model of ICL repair has been proposed, in which mammalian cells use novel excision repair reactions (requiring the XPF and ERCC1 proteins) to uncouple the crosslink. This is followed by a homologous recombination step to provide the genetic information needed to complete repair. This new knowledge may permit the development of screens for tumour response to crosslinking agents, and should also aid the design of more effective crosslinking agents that evade DNA repair. In addition, the proteins mediating the repair reactions represent potential targets for therapeutic intervention.

Original publication




Journal article


Lancet Oncol

Publication Date





483 - 490


Animals, DNA Repair, DNA, Neoplasm, Fanconi Anemia, Humans, Mammals, Neoplasms