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Invest New Drugs. 1999;17(3):227-40.

Protein kinase C targeting in antineoplastic treatment strategies.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, Medical College of Virginia, Richmond 23298, USA. wjarvis@HSC.VCU.EDU


Neoplastic cell survival is governed by a balance between pro-apoptotic and anti-apoptotic signals. Noteworthy among several anti-apoptotic signaling elements is the protein kinase C (PKC) isoenzyme family, which mediates a central cytoprotective effect in the regulation of cell survival. Activation of PKC, and subsequent recruitment of numerous downstream elements such as the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) cascade, opposes initiation of the apoptotic cell death program by diverse cytotoxic stimuli. The understanding that the lethal actions of numerous antineoplastic agents are, in many instances, antagonized by cytoprotective signaling systems has been an important stimulus for the development of novel antineoplastic strategies. In this regard, inhibition of PKC, which has been shown to initiate apoptosis in a variety of malignant cell types, has recently been the focus of intense interest. Furthermore, there is accumulating evidence that selective targeting of PKC may prove useful in improving the therapeutic efficacy of established antineoplastic agents. Such chemosensitizing strategies can involve either (a) direct inhibition of PKC (e.g., following acute treatment with relatively specific inhibitors such as the synthetic sphingoid base analog safingol, or the novel staurosporine derivatives UCN-01 and CGP-41251) or (b) down-regulation (e.g., following chronic treatment with the non-tumor-promoting PKC activator bryostatin 1). In preclinical model systems, suppression of the cytoprotective function(s) of PKC potentiates the activity of cytotoxic agents (e.g., cytarabine) as well as ionizing radiation, and efforts to translate these findings into the clinical arena in humans are currently underway. Although the PKC-driven cytoprotective signaling systems affected by these treatments have not been definitively characterized, interference with PKC activity has been associated with loss of the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) response. Accordingly, recent pre-clinical studies have demonstrated that pharmacological disruption of the primary MEK-ERK module can mimic the chemopotentiating and radiopotentiating actions of PKC inhibition and/or down-regulation.

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