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Eur J Cancer. 2002 Sep;38 Suppl 5:S19-27.

Imatinib: a selective tyrosine kinase inhibitor.

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  • 1Novartis Pharma Ltd., Basel, Switzerland.


The understanding of the pathophysiology of a large number of cancer types provides a strategy to target cancer cells with minimal effect on normal cells. Protein phosphorylation and dephosphorylation play a pivotal role in intracellular signaling; to regulate signal transduction pathways, there are approximately 700 protein kinases and 100 protein phosphatases encoded within the human genome. In cancer, as well as in other proliferative diseases, unregulated cell proliferation, differentiation and survival frequently results from abnormal protein phosphorylation. Although it is often possible to identify a single kinase that plays a pivotal role in a given disease, the development of drugs based upon protein kinase inhibition has been hampered by unacceptable side effects resulting from a lack of target selectivity. With the growing understanding of the molecular biology of protein tyrosine kinases and the use of structural information, the design of potential drugs directed towards the bind adenosine triphosphate (ATP)-binding site of a single target has become possible. These advances have transferred emphasis away from the identification of potent kinase inhibitors and more towards issues of target selectivity, cellular efficacy, therapeutic effectiveness and tolerability. In this paper, the relationship between molecular biology and drug discovery methods, as utilized for the identification of anticancer drugs, will be illustrated.

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