Send to

Choose Destination
Semin Oncol. 1997 Apr;24(2):187-202.

Antisense oligonucleotides as therapeutics for malignant diseases.

Author information

Investigational Drug Branch, Cancer Therapy Evaluation Program, National Cancer Institute, Rockville, MD 20852, USA.


The continued progress in our understanding of the biology of neoplasia and in the identification, cloning, and sequencing of genes critical to tumor cell function permits the exploitation of this information to develop specific agents that may directly modulate the function of these genes or their protein products. Antisense oligonucleotides are being investigated as a potential therapeutic modality that takes direct advantage of molecular sequencing. The antisense approach uses short oligonucleotides designed to hybridize to a target mRNA transcript through Watson-Crick base pairing. The formation of this oligonucleotide: RNA heteroduplex results in mRNA inactivation and consequent inhibition of synthesis of the protein product. A fundamental attraction of the antisense approach is that this method potentially may be applied to any gene product, in theory, for the treatment of malignant and non-malignant diseases. However, this simple and attractive model has proven to be much more complex in practice. A number of important challenges in the preclinical development of antisense oligonucleotides have been identified, including stability, sequence length, cellular uptake, target sequence selection, appropriate negative controls, oligonucleotide: protein interactions, and cost of manufacture. Although the biological activity of an oligonucleotide against its molecular target is theoretically sequence-dependent, the animal pharmacokinetics and toxicology of phosphorothioate analogues directed against vastly disparate gene products appear relatively non-sequence-specific. In oncology, a number of clinical trials have been initiated with antisense oligonucleotides directed against molecular targets including: p53; bcl-2; raf kinase; protein kinase C-alpha; c-myb. The experience gained from these early clinical trials will be applicable to the next generation of antisense agents in development. These may include molecules with novel backbones or other structural modifications, chimeric oligonucleotides, or peptide nucleic acids. Continued progress in this arena will require that many of the preclinical challenges confronting antisense development are satisfactory resolved.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Loading ...
Support Center