New targets for therapy in breast cancer: farnesyltransferase inhibitors

Breast Cancer Res. 2004;6(6):262-8. doi: 10.1186/bcr947. Epub 2004 Oct 6.


Current systemic therapies for breast cancer are often limited by their nonspecific mechanism of action, unwanted toxicities on normal tissues, and short-term efficacy due to the emergence of drug resistance. However, identification of the molecular abnormalities in cancer, in particular the key proteins involved in abnormal cell growth, has resulted in development of various signal transduction inhibitor drugs as new treatment strategies against the disease. Protein farnesyltransferase inhibitors (FTIs) were originally designed to target the Ras signal transduction pathway, although it is now clear that several other intracellular proteins are dependent on post-translational farnesylation for their function. Preclinical data revealed that although FTIs inhibit the growth of ras-transformed cells, they are also potent inhibitors of a wide range of cancer cell lines that contain wild-type ras, including breast cancer cells. Additive or synergistic effects were observed when FTIs were combined with cytotoxic agents (in particular the taxanes) or endocrine therapies (tamoxifen). Phase I trials with FTIs have explored different schedules for prolonged administration, and dose-limiting toxicities included myelosuppression, gastrointestinal toxicity and neuropathy. Clinical efficacy against breast cancer was seen for the FTI tipifarnib in a phase II study. Based on promising preclinical data that suggest synergy with taxanes or endocrine therapy, combination clinical studies are now in progress to determine whether FTIs can add further to the efficacy of conventional breast cancer therapies.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alkyl and Aryl Transferases / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Animals
  • Breast Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Breast Neoplasms / enzymology*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / pharmacology*
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / therapeutic use*
  • Farnesyltranstransferase
  • Humans
  • Xenograft Model Antitumor Assays


  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Alkyl and Aryl Transferases
  • Farnesyltranstransferase