Mechanisms used by cancer cells to tolerate drug-induced replication stress

Hendrika A Segeren, Bart Westendorp

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Activation of oncogenes in cancer cells forces cell proliferation, leading to DNA replication stress (RS). As a consequence, cancer cells heavily rely on the intra S-phase checkpoint for survival. This fundamental principle formed the basis for the development of inhibitors against key players of the intra S-phase checkpoint, ATR and CHK1. These drugs are often combined with chemotherapeutic drugs that interfere with DNA replication to exacerbate RS and exhaust the intra S-phase checkpoint in cancer cells. However, drug resistance impedes efficient clinical use, suggesting that some cancer cells tolerate severe RS. In this review, we describe how an increased nucleotide pool, boosted stabilization and repair of stalled forks and firing of dormant origins fortify the RS response in cancer cells. Notably, the vast majority of the genes that confer RS tolerance are regulated by the E2F and NRF2 transcription factors. These transcriptional programs are frequently activated in cancer cells, allowing simultaneous activation of multiple tolerance avenues. We propose that the E2F and NRF2 transcriptional programs can be used as biomarker to select patients for treatment with RS-inducing drugs and as novel targets to kill RS-tolerant cancer cells. Together, this review aims to provide a framework to maximally exploit RS as an Achilles' heel of cancer cells.

Original languageEnglish
Article number215804
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalCancer Letters
Early online date22 Jun 2022
Publication statusPublished - 28 Sept 2022


  • Intra S-Phase checkpoint
  • Chemoresistance
  • E2F
  • NRF2


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