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Cancer Cell. 2004 May;5(5):501-12.

Synthetic lethal targeting of MYC by activation of the DR5 death receptor pathway.

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Department of Cancer Biology, Genomics Institute of the Novartis Research Foundation, 10675 John Jay Hopkins Drive, San Diego, CA 92121 USA.


The genetic concept of synthetic lethality provides a framework for identifying genotype-selective anticancer agents. In this approach, changes in cellular physiology that arise as a consequence of oncogene activation or tumor suppressor gene loss, rather than oncoproteins themselves, are targeted to achieve tumor selectivity. Here we show that agonists of the TRAIL death receptor DR5 potently induce apoptosis in human cells overexpressing the MYC oncogene, both in vitro and as tumor xenografts in vivo. MYC sensitizes cells to DR5 in a p53-independent manner by upregulating DR5 cell surface levels and stimulating autocatalytic processing of procaspase-8. These results identify a novel mechanism by which MYC sensitizes cells to apoptosis and validate DR5 agonists as potential MYC-selective cancer therapeutics.

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