Heat-shock protein 90 inhibitors as novel cancer chemotherapeutic agents

Expert Opin Emerg Drugs. 2002 Oct;7(2):277-88. doi: 10.1517/14728214.7.2.277.


Heat-shock protein 90 (Hsp90) is a molecular chaperone whose association is required for the stability and function of multiple mutated, chimeric and overexpressed signalling proteins that promote cancer cell growth and/or survival. Hsp90 client proteins include mutated p53, Bcr-Abl, Raf-1, Akt, HER2/Neu (ErbB2) and hypoxia inducible factor-1alpha (HIF-1alpha). Through specific interaction with a single molecular target, Hsp90 inhibitors cause the destabilisation and eventual degradation of Hsp90 client proteins, and they have shown promising antitumour activity in preclinical model systems. One Hsp90 inhibitor, 17-allylamino-geldanamycin (17-AAG), is currently in Phase I clinical trials. Hsp90 inhibitors are unique in that, although they are directed towards a specific molecular target, they simultaneously inhibit multiple signalling pathways on which cancer cells depend for growth and survival. Further, because of the unique effect that Hsp90 inhibition has on cancer cells, combination of an Hsp90 inhibitor with standard chemotherapeutic agents may dramatically increase the in vivo efficacy of the standard agent.