Cancers with deficiencies in homologous recombination-mediated DNA repair (HRR) demonstrate improved clinical outcomes and increased survival. Approximately 50% of high-grade serous ovarian cancers (HGSOC) exhibit homologous recombination deficiency (HRD). HRD can be caused by germline or somatic mutations of genes involved in the HR pathway. Given platinum-based chemotherapy and poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase inhibitors (PARPis) are used in HGSOC, double-strand breaks (DSBs) are common. Unrepaired DSBs are toxic to cells as genomic instability ensues and cells eventually die. Thus, tumor cells with DSBs utilize the high-fidelity HRR as one of the central pathways for repair. In tumors that have HRD, an alternate pathway such as non-homologous end-joining (NHEJ) is used and leads to error-prone repair. To date, methods for clinical detection of homologous recombination deficiency (HRD) are limited to genomic changes of HRR genes and genomic mutation patterns resulting from HRD genes involved in HR-mediated DNA repair. However, these tests detect genomic scars that might not always correlate well with PARP inhibitor or platinum sensitivity in the current state. Therefore, a functional HRD assay should be able to more accurately predict tumor response in real-time. RAD51 foci formation has been used as a functional assay to define HRD and closely correlates with chemotherapy and PARPi sensitivity. The inability to form RAD51 foci is a common feature of HRD. DNA damage can also cause transient slowing or stalling of replication forks defined as replication stress. Replication fork stalling can lead to fork degradation and decreased cell viability if forks do not resume DNA synthesis. Fork degradation has been found to lead to chemosensitivity in BRCA-deficient tumors. To determine this fork degradation phenotype, replication fork/DNA fiber assays are utilized. This review will highlight functional assays for HRD in the context of translating these to real-time clinical assays.
- Functional assay
- Homologous recombination deficiency
- PARP inhibitor
- Replication forks