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A Data Integration Workflow to Identify Drug Combinations Targeting Synthetic Lethal Interactions

Maximilian Marhold1, Andreas Heinzel2, Almas Merchant1, Paul Perco3, Michael Krainer1


A synthetic lethal interaction between two genes is given when knock-out of either one of the two genes does not affect cell viability but knock-out of both synthetic lethal interactors leads to loss of cell viability or cell death. The best studied synthetic lethal interaction is between BRCA1/2 and PARP1, with PARP1 inhibitors being used in clinical practice to treat patients with BRCA1/2 mutated tumors. Large genetic screens in model organisms but also in haploid human cell lines have led to the identification of numerous additional synthetic lethal interaction pairs, all being potential targets of interest in the development of novel tumor therapies. One approach is to therapeutically target genes with a synthetic lethal interactor that is mutated or significantly downregulated in the tumor of interest. A second approach is to formulate drug combinations addressing synthetic lethal interactions. In this article, we outline a data integration workflow to evaluate and identify drug combinations targeting synthetic lethal interactions. We make use of available datasets on synthetic lethal interaction pairs, homology mapping resources, drug-target links from dedicated databases, as well as information on drugs being investigated in clinical trials in the disease area of interest. We further highlight key findings of two recent studies of our group on drug combination assessment in the context of ovarian and breast cancer.

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