Tumor hypoxia has been recognized as a common feature of solid tumors and a negative prognostic factor for response to treatment and survival of cancer patients. The discovery of hypoxia-inducible factor-1 (HIF-1), a molecular determinant of responses to hypoxia in mammalian cells, has renewed enthusiasm for discovery and development of targeted therapies exploiting the hypoxic tumor microenvironment. HIF-1 activity in tumors depends on availability of the HIF-1α subunit, the levels of which increase under hypoxic conditions and through activation of oncogenes and/or inactivation of tumor suppressor genes. Increased HIF-1 has been correlated with increased angiogenesis, aggressive tumor growth, and poor patient prognosis, leading to current interest in HIF-1 as promising anticancer drug target. In spite of an ever increasing number of putative small molecule inhibitors of HIF-1, only a few are progressing through preclinical and early clinical development. In this review, we will discuss recent advances in discovery and development of small molecule inhibitors that target the HIF-1 pathway as potential anticancer agents.
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