p53 and its related genes, p73 and p63, are members of the p53 gene family. While p53 is the most frequently mutated gene in human tumors, p73 and p63 are rarely mutated or lost in cancers. Although p53-deficient cancer cells are often less responsive to chemotherapy, they are not completely drug resistant, suggesting that other apoptotic pathways are at work. Interestingly, several studies have shown that p73, and more recently p63, are involved in cellular response to cancer therapy, while others have indicated that p63 and p73 are required for p53-induced apoptosis, delineating functional interplay between p53 family members. The latest reports in this field have established that Nutlin-3, a selective inhibitor of p53-MDM2 interaction, disrupts p73-MDM2 and enhances p73 function in p53-null cells, and that a p53- derived peptide that targets iASPP—a common negative regulator of p53 family members—can trigger cell death via a p73-dependant mechanism. It has also been shown that a small-molecule RETRA suppressed mutant p53-bearing cancers cells through a p73-dependant salvage pathway. Finally, there is increasing evidence that cleaved fragments of p53, p63 and p73 are involved in apoptosis and it remains to be determined whether or not pro-forms of the p53 family play an apoptotic role mediated by cleavage. This review will highlight research into drugs and mechanisms that activate p63 and p73, since these proteins are not mutated in cancers and as such are potential candidates for replacing p53 in p53-deficient cells. It will therefore focus on recent findings in the search for pathways and molecules capable of modulating p53 family protein activities and restoring response to cancer therapy, particularly in tumors bearing p53 mutations.
UPRESS 3535, Pharmacologie et Nouveaux Traitements des Cancers (IFR 54), Institut de Cancerologie Gustave Roussy, Rue Camille Desmoulins, 94805 Villejuif Cedex France.
Publication date: November 1, 2009
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Current Medicinal Chemistry covers all the latest and outstanding developments in medicinal chemistry and rational drug design. Each issue contains a series of timely in-depth reviews written by leaders in the field covering a range of the current topics in medicinal chemistry. Current Medicinal Chemistry is an essential journal for every medicinal chemist who wishes to be kept informed and up-to-date with the latest and most important developments.