Background: Therapeutic peptides have great potential as anticancer agents owing to their ease of rational design and target specificity. However, their utility in vivo is limited by low stability and poor tumor penetration.
Objective: The authors review the development of peptide inhibitors with potential for cancer therapy. Peptides that arrest the cell cycle by mimicking CDK inhibitors or induce apoptosis directly are discussed.
Methods: The authors searched Medline for articles concerning the development of therapeutic peptides and their delivery.
Results/conclusion: Inhibition of cancer cell proliferation directly using peptides that arrest the cell cycle or induce apoptosis is a promising strategy. Peptides can be designed that interact very specifically with cyclins and/or cyclin-dependent kinases and with members of apoptotic cascades. Use of these peptides is not limited by their design, as a rational approach to peptide design is much less challenging than the design of small molecule inhibitors of specific protein-protein interactions. However, the limitations of peptide therapy lie in the poor pharmacokinetic properties of these large, often charged molecules. Therefore, overcoming the drug delivery hurdles could open the door for effective peptide therapy, thus making an entirely new class of molecules useful as anticancer drugs.