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Clin Cancer Res. 2008 Mar 15;14(6):1639-48. doi: 10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-07-2179.

Aurora kinases as anticancer drug targets.

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Department of Medical Oncology, Bern University Hospital, Bern, Switzerland.


The human aurora family of serine-threonine kinases comprises three members, which act in concert with many other proteins to control chromosome assembly and segregation during mitosis. Aurora dysfunction can cause aneuploidy, mitotic arrest, and cell death. Aurora kinases are strongly expressed in a broad range of cancer types. Aurora A expression in tumors is often associated with gene amplification, genetic instability, poor histologic differentiation, and poor prognosis. Aurora B is frequently expressed at high levels in a variety of tumors, often coincidently with aurora A, and expression level has also been associated with increased genetic instability and clinical outcome. Further, aurora kinase gene polymorphisms are associated with increased risk or early onset of cancer. The expression of aurora C in cancer is less well studied. In recent years, several small-molecule aurora kinase inhibitors have been developed that exhibit preclinical activity against a wide range of solid tumors. Preliminary clinical data from phase I trials have largely been consistent with cytostatic effects, with disease stabilization as the best response achieved in solid tumors. Objective responses have been noted in leukemia patients, although this might conceivably be due to inhibition of the Abl kinase. Current challenges include the optimization of drug administration, the identification of potential biomarkers of tumor sensitivity, and combination studies with cytotoxic drugs. Here, we summarize the most recent preclinical and clinical data and discuss new directions in the development of aurora kinase inhibitors as antineoplastic agents.

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