Downstream molecular determinants of response to 5-fluorouracil and antifolate thymidylate synthase inhibitors

B. Van Triest, H. M. Pinedo, G. Giaccone, G. J. Peters

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

137 Scopus citations


Thymidylate synthase (TS) is an essential enzyme for the de novo synthesis of thymidylate and subsequently DNA synthesis. TS has been used as a target for cancer chemotherapy in the development of fluoropyrimidines such as 5-fluorouracil (5-FU) and 5-fluorodeoxyuridine and of novel folate-based TS inhibitors such as ZD1694 (Tomudex, Raltitrexed), ZD9331, LY231514 (ALIMTA, Pemetrexed), AG337 (Thymitaq, Nolatrexed) and AG331. Although TS has been considered as a target for chemotherapy, the precise mechanism by which TS inhibition leads to cell death is still not completely resolved. TS inhibition results in depletion of dTTP, an essential precursor for DNA, and an increase in dUTP. This results in the so-called thymine-less death due to misincorporation of dUTP into DNA; its excision, catalysed by uracil-DNA glycosylase, results in DNA damage. Both this imbalance in dTTP/dUTP and DNA damage can result in induction of downstream events, leading to apoptosis. On the other hand a specific interaction exists between oncogenes and TS, by binding of TS protein to the p53 and c-myc RNA, while wt p53 can also inhibit TS promotor activity. TS inhibition by either 5-FU or antifolates can also result in a depression of TS protein mediated inhibition of TS mRNA translation leading to induction of more TS protein synthesis, and p53 protein may further deregulate this process. These complex indirect and direct interactions between oncogenes and TS may have as yet unclear clinical implications, since most data are based on in vitro or in vivo studies and some results are contradictive. In some preliminary clinical studies evidence was postulated for a combined prognostic role for TS and p53. This knowledge should be used to design clinical studies with the aim to deliver effective treatment to potentially sensitive patients both in the adjuvant setting and in advanced stage disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)385-391
Number of pages7
JournalAnnals of Oncology
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2000
Externally publishedYes


  • 5-fluorouracil
  • Antifolates
  • Apoptosis
  • DNA repair
  • p53
  • Thymidylate synthase

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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