The structural basis for cancer treatment decisions

Ruth Nussinov _, Hyunbum Jang and Chung-Jung Tsai

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Oncotarget. 2014; 5:7285-7302. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.2439

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Ruth Nussinov1,2, Hyunbum Jang1, Chung-Jung Tsai1

1 Cancer and Inflammation Program, Leidos Biomedical Research, Inc., Frederick National Laboratory for Cancer Research, National Cancer Institute, Frederick, MD 21702, U.S.A.

2 Sackler Inst. of Molecular Medicine, Department of Human Genetics and Molecular Medicine, Sackler School of Medicine, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv 69978, Israel

Correspondence to:

Dr. Ruth Nussinov, e-mail: [email protected]

Keywords: Cancer treatment decisions, driver mutations, driver genes, redundant pathways, parallel pathways, computational biology, protein structure, cellular network, oncogenic mutations

Received: July 28, 2014     Accepted: September 03, 2014     Published: September 12, 2014


Cancer treatment decisions rely on genetics, large data screens and clinical pharmacology. Here we point out that genetic analysis and treatment decisions may overlook critical elements in cancer development, progression and drug resistance. Two critical structural elements are missing in genetics-based decision-making: the mechanisms of oncogenic mutations and the cellular network which is rewired in cancer. These lay the foundation for the structural basis for cancer treatment decisions, which is rooted in the physical principles of the molecular conformational behavior of single molecules and their interactions. Improved tumor mutational analysis platforms and knowledge of the redundant pathways which can take over in cancer, may not only supplement known actionable findings, but forecast possible cancer progression and resistance. Such forward-looking can be powerful, endowing the oncologist with mechanistic insight and cancer prognosis, and consequently more informed treatment options. Examples include redundant pathways taking over after inhibition of EGFR constitutive activation, mutations in PIK3CA p110α and p85, and the non-hotspot AKT1 mutants conferring constitutive membrane localization.

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