PARP1 enzyme plays an important role in DNA damage recognition and signalling. PARP inhibitors are approved in breast, ovarian, pancreatic, and prostate cancers harbouring a pathogenic variant in BRCA1 or BRCA2, where PARP1 inhibition results mainly in synthetic lethality in cells with impaired homologous recombination. However, the increasingly wide use of PARP inhibitors in clinical practice has highlighted the problem of resistance to therapy. Several different mechanisms of resistance have been proposed, although only the acquisition of secondary mutations in BRCA1/2 has been clinically proved. The aim of this review is to outline the key molecular findings that could explain the development of primary or secondary resistance to PARP inhibitors, analysing the complex interactions between PARP1, cell cycle regulation, PI3K/AKT signalling, response to stress replication, homologous recombination, and other DNA damage repair pathways in the setting of BRCA1/2 mutated cancers.

Keywords: BRCA1; BRCA2; PARP inhibitors; fork stabilization; homologous recombination; non-homologous end joining.

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