Homologous recombination as a mechanism of carcinogenesis

Alexander J.R. Bishop, Robert H. Schiestl

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

63 Scopus citations


Cancer develops when cells no longer follow their normal pattern of controlled growth. In the absence or disregard of such regulation, resulting from changes in their genetic makeup, these errant cells acquire a growth advantage, expanding into pre-cancerous clones. Over the last decade many studies have revealed the relevance of genomic mutation in this process, be it by misreplication, environmental damage or a deficiency in repairing endogenous and exogenous damage. Here we discuss homologous recombination as another mechanism that can result in loss of heterozygosity or genetic rearrangements. Some of these genetic alterations may play a primary role in carcinogenesis, but they are more likely to be involved in secondary and subsequent steps of carcinogenesis by which recessive oncogenic mutations are revealed. Patients whose cells display an increased frequency of recombination also have an elevated frequency of cancer, further supporting the link between recombination and carcinogenesis. In addition, homologous recombination is induced by a wide variety of carcinogens, many of which are classically considered to be efficiently repaired by other repair pathways. Overall, homologous recombination is a process that has been widely overlooked but may be more central to the process of carcinogenesis than previously described.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)M109-M121
JournalBiochimica et Biophysica Acta - Reviews on Cancer
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes


  • Cancer
  • Carcinogen-induced deletion
  • Genomic instability disease
  • Homologous recombination
  • Loss of heterozygosity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Genetics
  • Cancer Research


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