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Mol Cancer Ther. 2013 Jun;12(6):831-43. doi: 10.1158/1535-7163.MCT-12-0782. Epub 2013 May 31.

Endoplasmic reticulum stress and the unfolded protein response: targeting the Achilles heel of multiple myeloma.

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Apoptosis Research Centre, National University of Ireland Galway, Galway, Ireland.


Multiple myeloma is characterized by the malignant proliferating antibody-producing plasma cells in the bone marrow. Despite recent advances in therapy that improve the survival of patients, multiple myeloma remains incurable and therapy resistance is the major factor causing lethality. Clearly, more effective treatments are necessary. In recent years it has become apparent that, as highly secretory antibody-producing cells, multiple myeloma cells require an increased capacity to cope with unfolded proteins and are particularly sensitive to compounds targeting proteostasis such as proteasome inhibitors, which represent one of the most prominent new therapeutic strategies. Because of the increased requirement for dealing with secretory proteins within the endoplasmic reticulum, multiple myeloma cells are heavily reliant for survival on a set of signaling pathways, known as the unfolded protein response (UPR). Thus, directly targeting the UPR emerges as a new promising therapeutic strategy. Here, we provide an overview of the current understanding of the UPR signaling in cancer, and outline its important role in myeloma pathogenesis and treatment. We discuss new therapeutic approaches based on targeting the protein quality control machinery and particularly the IRE1α/XBP1 axis of the UPR.

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