Hsp90: an emerging target for breast cancer therapy

Anticancer Drugs. 2004 Aug;15(7):651-62. doi: 10.1097/01.cad.0000136876.11928.be.


Rapidly evolving insights into the specific molecular genetic abnormalities that drive the growth and metastasis of breast cancer have led to the development of targeted therapeutics that do not rely on the generalized disruption of DNA metabolism and cell division for activity. Of particular interest are inhibitors of cellular signal transduction pathways involving tyrosine kinases as well as selective modulators of steroid hormone signaling, histone acetylation, angiogenesis and tumor cell apoptosis. Unique within this array of promising new agents, however, are compounds that target heat shock protein 90 (Hsp90). This molecular chaperone associates with a distinct, but surprisingly diverse, set of proteins that are referred to as Hsp90 client proteins. Hsp90 binds to these clients, and plays a key role in regulating their stability and function. Many of the proteins chaperoned by Hsp90 are involved in breast cancer progression and resistance to therapy, including the estrogen receptor, receptor tyrosine kinases of the erbB family, Akt, and mutant p53. Several small molecule inhibitors of Hsp90 have been identified that can deplete cellular levels of multiple oncogenic client proteins simultaneously by enhancing their ubiquitination and proteasome-mediated degradation. The activity of Hsp90 inhibitors has been well validated in preclinical breast cancer models, both in single-agent studies and in combination with conventional chemotherapy. One of these inhibitors, 17-allylamino, 17-demethoxygeldanamycin (17-AAG, NSC 330507) has recently completed phase I testing. The agent was well tolerated at drug exposures that were shown to cause modulation of Hsp90 client protein levels. Given the redundancy and complexity of the molecular abnormalities present in most breast cancers, the ability of Hsp90 inhibitors to alter the activity of multiple oncogenic targets may prove of unique therapeutic benefit.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Benzoquinones
  • Breast Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Breast Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • HSP90 Heat-Shock Proteins / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Humans
  • Lactams, Macrocyclic
  • Rifabutin / analogs & derivatives*
  • Rifabutin / pharmacology*
  • Rifabutin / therapeutic use


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Benzoquinones
  • HSP90 Heat-Shock Proteins
  • Lactams, Macrocyclic
  • Rifabutin
  • tanespimycin