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European Biopharmaceutical Review

Pharmacogenetics and the Development of Anticancer Agents

The observation that individuals respond differently to the same drug is centuries old, yet only recently has the biological basis for such variation begun to be unravelled. In the field of pharmacogenetics, detailed biological understanding of the pathways by which drugs act and are metabolised, guides high throughput DNA sequencing efforts to reveal variations within genes critical to therapeutic response. Such variance data is used to associate responsiveness to a drug with specific genetic variations, which can then serve as predictive markers to guide drug usage. This article summarises progress in identifying genetic markers that predict the toxicity and efficacy of chemotherapeutic drugs. Several types of markers have been associated with response to a variety of anticancer agents, including DNA polymorphisms, loss of heterozygosity, and RNA expression patterns within tumours. Some genetic features of cancer that provide the basis for these markers are outlined briefly, examples of each type of marker are provided, and the utility of pharmacogenetics throughout the drug development process is discussed.


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By Ann E. Ferentz, Senior Scientist and Manager of Scientific Communications at Variagenics, Inc

Ann Ferentz obtained her BS from Yale University and her PhD in Chemistry from Harvard University. Her subsequent research at Harvard Medical School and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology focused on structural biology and cellular responses to DNA damage.
She is currently a Senior Scientist and Manager of Scientific Communications at Variagenics, a pharmacogenomics company in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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Ann E. Ferentz
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