The circadian clock controls the expression of nearly 50% of protein coding genes in mice, and most likely in humans as well. Therefore, disruption of the circadian clock is presumed to have serious pathological effects including cancer. However, epidemiological studies on individuals with circadian disruption because of night shift or rotating shift work have produced contradictory data not conducive to scientific consensus as to whether circadian disruption increases the incidence of breast, ovarian, prostate or colorectal cancers. Similarly, genetically engineered mice with clock disruption do not exhibit spontaneous or radiation-induced cancers at higher incidence than wild-type controls. Because many cellular functions including the cell cycle and cell division are, at least in part, controlled by the molecular clock components (CLOCK, BMAL1, CRYs, PERs), it has also been expected that appropriate timing of chemotherapy may increase the efficacy of chemotherapeutic drugs and ameliorate their side effect. However, empirical attempts at chronochemotherapy have not produced beneficial outcomes. Using mice without and with human tumor xenografts, sites of DNA damage and repair following treatment with the anticancer drug cisplatin have been mapped genome-wide at single nucleotide resolution and as a function of circadian time. The data indicate that mechanism-based studies such as these may provide information necessary for devising rational chronochemotherapy regimens.
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