Importance of the field: TNF-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL) is a member of the TNF family of cytokines, which can induce apoptotic cell death in a variety of tumor cells by engaging specific death receptors, TRAIL-R1 and TRAIL-R2, while having low toxicity towards normal cells. There is interest in cancer therapy inducing cell death by activation of the death-receptor-mediated apoptotic pathway while avoiding decoy-receptor-mediated neutralization of the signal. This has led to the development of a number of receptor-specific TRAIL-variants and agonistic antibodies. Some of these soluble recombinant TRAIL and agonist antibodies targeting TRAIL-R1 and/or TRAIL-R2 are progressing in clinical trials. In addition, TRAIL-resistant tumors can be sensitized to TRAIL by a combination of TRAIL or agonistic antibodies with chemotherapeutic agents, targeted small molecules or irradiation.
Areas covered in this review: Recent advances in developing TRAIL or its agonist receptor antibodies in cancer therapy. We also discuss combination therapies in overcoming TRAIL resistance in cancer cells.
What the reader will gain: Knowledge of current clinical trials, the promise and obstacles in the future development of therapies affecting TRAIL signaling pathways.
Take home message: Cancer therapeutics targeting the TRAIL/TRAIL receptor signaling pathway hold great promise for molecularly targeted pro-apoptotic anti-cancer therapy.