Several mutations in nuclear genes encoding for mitochondrial components have been associated with an increased cancer risk or are even causative, e.g. succinate dehydrogenase (SDHB, SDHC and SDHD genes) and iso-citrate dehydrogenase (IDH1 and IDH2 genes). Recently, studies have suggested an eminent role for mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) mutations in the development of a wide variety of cancers. Various studies associated mtDNA abnormalities, including mutations, deletions, inversions and copy number alterations, with mitochondrial dysfunction. This might, explain the hampered cellular bioenergetics in many cancer cell types. Germline (e.g. m.10398A>G; m.6253T>C) and somatic mtDNA mutations as well as differences in mtDNA copy number seem to be associated with cancer risk. It seems that mtDNA can contribute as driver or as complementary gene mutation according to the multiple-hit model. This can enhance the mutagenic/clonogenic potential of the cell as observed for m.8993T>G or influences the metastatic potential in later stages of cancer progression. Alternatively, other mtDNA variations will be innocent passenger mutations in a tumor and therefore do not contribute to the tumorigenic or metastatic potential. In this review, we discuss how reported mtDNA variations interfere with cancer treatment and what implications this has on current successful pharmaceutical interventions. Mutations in MT-ND4 and mtDNA depletion have been reported to be involved in cisplatin resistance. Pharmaceutical impairment of OXPHOS by metformin can increase the efficiency of radiotherapy. To study mitochondrial dysfunction in cancer, different cellular models (like p(o) cells or cybrids), in vivo murine models (xenografts and specific mtDNA mouse models in combination with a spontaneous cancer mouse model) and small animal models (e.g. Danio rerio) could be potentially interesting to use. For future research, we foresee that unraveling mtDNA variations can contribute to personalized therapy for specific cancer types and improve the outcome of the disease.
- Mitochondria DNA