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Anticancer Res. 2012 Dec;32(12):5139-50.

HSP-molecular chaperones in cancer biogenesis and tumor therapy: an overview.

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  • 1Department of Experimental Medicine and Clinical Neuroscience, University of Palermo, Palermo, Italy. Via del Vespro 129, 90127, Palermo, Italy.


Molecular chaperones, many of which are heat-shock proteins (HSPs), are an important class of molecules with various functions. Pathological conditions in which chaperones become etiological and/or pathogenic factors are called chaperonopathies, and are classified into by defect, by excess, and by 'mistake'. In the latter case, the chaperone is structurally and functionally normal but participates in pathways that favor disease, although in some cases the chaperone may have post-translational modifications that may lead it to change its location and function and, thus, to become pathogenic. For example, HSP-chaperones are involved in carcinogenesis in various ways, so that some forms of cancer may be considered 'chaperonopathies by mistake'. This concept suggests new strategies for anticancer therapy (chaperonotherapy), in which the primary targets or therapeutic agents are chaperones. Chaperonotherapy consists of the utilization of HSP-chaperones for treating chaperonopathies, including cancer. Negative chaperonotherapy is aimed at eliminating or blocking the action of chaperones that favor carcinogenesis or other diseases, whereas positive chaperonotherapy uses chaperones, genes or proteins, to fight against diseases, such as cancer, by stimulating the immune system or the cellular defenses against stress.

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