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Drugs Today (Barc). 2005 May;41(5):299-315.

Preclinical and clinical development of the proteasome inhibitor bortezomib in cancer treatment.

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Medical Oncology Department/CMHO, Hospital Clinic & Laboratory of Experimental Research, IDIBAPS, Barcelona, Spain.


The proteasome is a ubiquitous enzyme complex that plays a critical role in the degradation of many proteins involved in cell cycle regulation, apoptosis and angiogenesis. Since these pathways are fundamental for cell survival and proliferation, particularly in cancer cells, the inhibition of proteasome is an attractive potential anticancer therapy. The present review will focus on the proteasome inhibitor bortezomib (Velcade, formerly PS-341; Millennium Pharmaceuticals, Inc., Cambridge, MA, USA). Bortezomib is an extremely potent and selective proteasome inhibitor that shows strong activity in in vitro and in vivo laboratory studies against many solid and hematologic tumor types. Moreover, bortezomib, mainly by inhibition of the NF-kappaB pathway, has a chemosensitizing effect when administered together with other antitumoral drugs. Based on these results, bortezomib entered clinical phase I trials, alone or in combination with chemotherapy, that showed good tolerance at doses that achieved a desired degree of proteasome inhibition. Phase II studies showed high response rates in refractory multiple myeloma patients, which led to the accelerated approval of bortezomib by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the European Medicines Agency (EMEA) for this indication. A phase III trial comparing bortezomib with dexamethasone in refractory/ relapsed multiple myeloma patients had to be halted due to a survival advantage in the bortezomib arm. Additional studies are focusing on the potential benefit of bortezomib in newly diagnosed multiple myeloma patients. In other solid and hematological malignancies, phase II studies with bortezomib alone or in combination with other agents are ongoing. Encouraging results, particularly in lung cancer and lymphoma, have been observed. The critical molecules or genes responsible for tumor sensitivity to bortezomib continue to be evaluated using novel technologies.

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