Purpose of review: Recent progress in understanding the production, processing, and function of the cystic fibrosis gene product, the cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR), has revealed new therapeutic targets to repair the mutant protein. Classification of CFTR mutations and new treatment strategies to address each will be described here.
Recent findings: High-throughput screening and other drug discovery efforts have identified small molecules that restore activity to mutant CFTR. Compounds such as VX-770 that potentiate CFTR have demonstrated exciting results in recent clinical trials and demonstrate robust effects across several CFTR mutation classes in the laboratory. A number of novel F508del CFTR processing correctors restore protein to the cell surface and improve ion channel function in vitro and are augmented by coadministration of CFTR potentiators. Ongoing discovery efforts that target protein folding, CFTR trafficking, and cell stress have also indicated promising results. Aminoglycosides and the novel small molecule ataluren induce translational readthrough of nonsense mutations in CFTR and other genetic diseases in vitro and in vivo and have shown activity in proof of concept trials, and ataluren is now being studied in confirmatory trials.
Summary: An improved understanding of the molecular mechanisms underlying the basic genetic defect in cystic fibrosis have led to new treatment strategies to repair the mutant protein.