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Clin Cancer Res. 2003 Dec 15;9(17):6316-25.

The proteasome as a target for cancer therapy.

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The Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, Division of Hematology/Oncology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina 27599-7295, USA.


The proteasome is a multicatalytic proteinase complex responsible for the degradation of most intracellular proteins, including proteins crucial to cell cycle regulation and programmed cell death, or apoptosis. In preclinical cancer models, proteasome inhibitors induce apoptosis, have in vivo antitumor efficacy, and sensitize malignant cells and tumors to the proapoptotic effects of conventional chemotherapeutics and radiation therapy. Interestingly, transformed cells display greater susceptibility to proteasome inhibition than nonmalignant cells. Therefore, proteasome inhibition holds promise as a novel approach to the treatment of cancer. Inhibitors of the proteasome impact on cells in part through down-regulation of nuclear factor kappaB, but also through modulation of cell cycle proteins and other pro- and antiapoptotic pathways. Bortezomib (VELCADE; formerly PS-341), the first such inhibitor to undergo clinical testing, has demonstrated impressive antitumor activity and manageable toxicities in Phase I and II trials both as a single agent, and in combination with other drugs. It has been approved recently by the Food and Drug Administration for therapy of patients with multiple myeloma who have received at least two prior regimens and progressed on the last of these. Ongoing preclinical evaluations of the mechanisms that underlie the antitumor effects of proteasome inhibitors, and clinical trials in a variety of tumor types, will allow additional refinement of the role these agents will play in cancer therapy. Below we discuss the rationale behind targeting the proteasome for cancer therapy, and review the preclinical and clinical data on proteasome inhibitors alone, and in combination with conventional chemotherapeutics.

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