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Cell Death Differ. 2016 May;23(5):733-47. doi: 10.1038/cdd.2015.174. Epub 2016 Mar 4.

Onto better TRAILs for cancer treatment.

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Departamento de Bioquímica, Biología Molecular y Celular, Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad de Zaragoza, Zaragoza, Spain.
Instituto de Investigación Sanitaria de Aragón, Zaragoza, Spain.
UCL Cancer Institute, Faculty of Medical Sciences, University College London, London, UK.
Instituto de Nanociencia de Aragón, Zaragoza, Spain.


Tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL), also known as Apo-2 ligand (Apo2L), is a member of the TNF cytokine superfamily. By cross-linking TRAIL-Receptor (TRAIL-R) 1 or TRAIL-R2, also known as death receptors 4 and 5 (DR4 and DR5), TRAIL has the capability to induce apoptosis in a wide variety of tumor cells while sparing vital normal cells. The discovery of this unique property among TNF superfamily members laid the foundation for testing the clinical potential of TRAIL-R-targeting therapies in the cancer clinic. To date, two of these therapeutic strategies have been tested clinically: (i) recombinant human TRAIL and (ii) antibodies directed against TRAIL-R1 or TRAIL-R2. Unfortunately, however, these TRAIL-R agonists have basically failed as most human tumors are resistant to apoptosis induction by them. It recently emerged that this is largely due to the poor agonistic activity of these agents. Consequently, novel TRAIL-R-targeting agents with increased bioactivity are currently being developed with the aim of rendering TRAIL-based therapies more active. This review summarizes these second-generation novel formulations of TRAIL and other TRAIL-R agonists, which exhibit enhanced cytotoxic capacity toward cancer cells, thereby providing the potential of being more effective when applied clinically than first-generation TRAIL-R agonists.

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