Synthetic Essentiality: Targeting Tumor Suppressor Deficiencies in Cancer

In this review, we summarize recent work exploring a novel conceptual approach termed “synthetic essentiality” as a means for targeting specific tumor suppressor gene deficiencies in cancer. With the aid of extensive publically available cancer genome and clinical databases, “synthetic essentiality” could be utilized to identify synthetic essential genes, which might be occasionally deleted in some cancers but almost always retained in the context of a specific tumor suppressor deficiency. Synthetic essentiality expands the existing concepts for therapeutic strategies, including oncogene addiction, tumor maintenance, synthetic, and collateral lethality, to provide a framework for the discovery of cancer-specific vulnerabilities. Enabled by ever-expanding large-scale genome datasets and genome-scale functional screens, the “synthetic essentiality” framework provides an avenue for the identification of context-specific therapeutic targets and development of patient responder hypotheses for novel and existing therapies.

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