A critical determinant of the efficacy of antineoplastic therapy is the response of malignant cells to DNA damage induced by anticancer agents. The p53 tumor-suppressor gene is a critical component of two distinct cellular responses to DNA damage, the induction of a reversible arrest at the G1/S cell cycle checkpoint, and the activation of apoptosis, a genetic program of autonomous cell death. Expression of the BCR-ABL chimeric gene produced by a balanced translocation in chronic myeloid leukemia, confers resistance to multiple genotoxic anticancer agents. BCR-ABL expression inhibits the apoptotic response to DNA damage without altering either the p53-dependent WAF1/CIP1-mediated G1 arrest or DNA repair. BCR-ABL-mediated inhibition of DNA damage-induced apoptosis is associated with a prolongation of cell cycle arrest at the G2/M restriction point; the delay of G2/M transition may allow time to repair and complete DNA replication and chromosomal segregation, thereby preventing a mitotic catastrophe. The inherent resistance of human cancers to genotoxic agents may result not only by the loss or inactivation of the wild-type p53 gene, but also by genetic alterations such as BCR-ABL that can delay G2/M transition after DNA damage.

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