The cell cycle is an evolutionarily conserved process necessary for mammalian cell growth and development. Because cell-cycle aberrations are a hallmark of cancer, this process has been the target of anti-cancer therapeutics for decades. However, despite numerous clinical trials, cell-cycle-targeting agents have generally failed in the clinic. This review briefly examines past cell-cycle-targeted therapeutics and outlines how experience with these agents has provided valuable insight to refine and improve anti-mitotic strategies. An overview of emerging anti-mitotic approaches with promising pre-clinical results is provided, and the concept of exploiting the genomic instability of tumor cells through therapeutic inhibition of mitotic checkpoints is discussed. We believe this strategy has a high likelihood of success given its potential to enhance therapeutic index by targeting tumor-specific vulnerabilities. This reasoning stimulated our development of novel inhibitors targeting the critical regulators of genomic stability and the mitotic checkpoint: AURKA, PLK4, and Mps1/TTK.
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