Inhibitors of the HSP90 molecular chaperone: current status

Adv Cancer Res. 2006;95:323-48. doi: 10.1016/S0065-230X(06)95009-X.


The molecular chaperone heat shock protein 90 (HSP90) has emerged as an exciting molecular target for cancer therapy. It operates as part of a multichaperone complex and is essential for the conformation, stability, and function of several key oncogenic client proteins such as mutant p53, ERBB2, B-RAF, C-RAF, and CDK4. The HSP90-based chaperone machine is driven by the hydrolysis of ATP and ADP/ATP nucleotide exchange. Many of the inhibitors of HSP90 interrupt the intrinsic ATPase activity, causing degradation of the client proteins via the ubiquitin-proteasome pathway. The first-in-class HSP90 inhibitor in clinical trials is the geldanamycin analog, 17-allylamino, 17-demethoxygeldanamycin (17-AAG). The results that have emerged from these trials have been encouraging, with stable disease observed in two melanoma patients. Pharmacodynamic endpoints, such as induction of HSP70 and downregulation of C-RAF and CDK4 in peripheral blood mononuclear cells and tumor biopsies from treated patients, provided evidence of HSP90 inhibition at well-tolerated doses. The toxicity of 17-AAG has been mild. Several preclinical studies have shown that 17-AAG may enhance the efficacy of a variety of chemotherapeutic agents. Phase II clinical trials in various cancers have been initiated as well as Phase I trials of combined therapy with 17-AAG. However, there are several limitations with 17-AAG such as solubility, stability, and hepatotoxicity. Thus, it is not surprising that new HSP90 agents are under development against this novel target for cancer therapy and several show promise.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Benzoquinones / pharmacology*
  • HSP90 Heat-Shock Proteins / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • HSP90 Heat-Shock Proteins / chemistry*
  • Humans
  • Lactams, Macrocyclic / pharmacology*
  • Models, Biological
  • Models, Chemical
  • Molecular Chaperones / chemistry*
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Novobiocin / pharmacology*
  • Purines / chemistry*
  • Pyrazoles / chemistry*


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Benzoquinones
  • HSP90 Heat-Shock Proteins
  • Lactams, Macrocyclic
  • Molecular Chaperones
  • Purines
  • Pyrazoles
  • 17-(dimethylaminoethylamino)-17-demethoxygeldanamycin
  • Novobiocin
  • tanespimycin