Chemotherapy Side-Effects: Not All DNA Damage Is Equal

Winnie M.C. van den Boogaard, Daphne S.J. Komninos, Wilbert P. Vermeij

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

91 Citations (Scopus)


Recent advances have increased survival rates of children and adults suffering from cancer thanks to effective anti-cancer therapy, such as chemotherapy. However, during treatment and later in life they are frequently confronted with the severe negative side-effects of their life-saving treatment. The occurrence of numerous features of accelerated aging, seriously affecting quality of life, has now become one of the most pressing problems associated with (pediatric) cancer treat-ment. Chemotherapies frequently target and damage the DNA, causing mutations or genome in-stability, a major hallmark of both cancer and aging. However, there are numerous types of chemo-therapeutic drugs that are genotoxic and interfere with DNA metabolism in different ways, each with their own biodistribution, kinetics, and biological fate. Depending on the type of DNA lesion produced (e.g., interference with DNA replication or RNA transcription), the organ or cell type inflicted (e.g., cell cycle or differentiation status, metabolic state, activity of clearance and detoxification mechanisms, the cellular condition or micro-environment), and the degree of exposure, outcomes of cancer treatment can largely differ. These considerations provide a conceptual framework in which different classes of chemotherapeutics contribute to the development of toxicities and accelerated aging of different organ systems. Here, we summarize frequently observed side-effects in (pediatric) ex-cancer patients and discuss which types of DNA damage might be responsible.
Original languageEnglish
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2022


  • Cancer survivors
  • Cancer treatment
  • Chemotherapy
  • DNA damage
  • Premature aging


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