Synthetic lethal targeting of MYC by activation of the DR5 death receptor pathway

Cancer Cell. 2004 May;5(5):501-12. doi: 10.1016/s1535-6108(04)00113-8.


The genetic concept of synthetic lethality provides a framework for identifying genotype-selective anticancer agents. In this approach, changes in cellular physiology that arise as a consequence of oncogene activation or tumor suppressor gene loss, rather than oncoproteins themselves, are targeted to achieve tumor selectivity. Here we show that agonists of the TRAIL death receptor DR5 potently induce apoptosis in human cells overexpressing the MYC oncogene, both in vitro and as tumor xenografts in vivo. MYC sensitizes cells to DR5 in a p53-independent manner by upregulating DR5 cell surface levels and stimulating autocatalytic processing of procaspase-8. These results identify a novel mechanism by which MYC sensitizes cells to apoptosis and validate DR5 agonists as potential MYC-selective cancer therapeutics.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Apoptosis*
  • Caspase 8
  • Caspases / metabolism
  • Fibroblasts / metabolism
  • Gene Targeting
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Nude
  • Mice, SCID
  • Mutation / genetics*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-myc / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-myc / physiology*
  • RNA, Small Interfering / pharmacology*
  • Receptors, TNF-Related Apoptosis-Inducing Ligand
  • Receptors, Tumor Necrosis Factor / metabolism*
  • Retroviridae / genetics
  • Signal Transduction*
  • Transplantation, Heterologous
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53 / metabolism
  • Up-Regulation


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-myc
  • RNA, Small Interfering
  • Receptors, TNF-Related Apoptosis-Inducing Ligand
  • Receptors, Tumor Necrosis Factor
  • TNFRSF10B protein, human
  • Tnfrsf10b protein, mouse
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53
  • CASP8 protein, human
  • Casp8 protein, mouse
  • Caspase 8
  • Caspases