Purpose of review: p53 mutation occurs in over half of all human tumors. Among the remaining tumors, although they may process a wild-type p53, the pathways of p53-induced cell-cycle arrest and apoptosis are deficient. Therefore, p53 serves as a unique molecular target for cancer therapy. This review focuses on the current progress regarding restoration of p53 function in human tumors for molecularly targeted therapy.
Recent findings: Targeting p53 for cancer therapy has been intensively pursued. CP-31398 was the first small molecule identified with the ability to restore the wild-type conformation to mutant p53. Subsequently, PRIMA-1 and ellipticine were found to be able to induce mutant p53-dependent cell death. Nutlin was developed to rescue wild-type p53 from degradation mediated by MDM2. More recently, p53 family members can be activated and therefore serve as substitutes of p53 in tumor cells and induce cell death.
Summary: Loss of p53 function is a characteristic of almost all human tumors. Recent advances demonstrate that reconstitution of p53 function is possible and practical as a promising antitumor strategy.