Cancer therapeutics using survivin BIRC5 as a target: what can we do after over two decades of study?

J Exp Clin Cancer Res. 2019 Aug 22;38(1):368. doi: 10.1186/s13046-019-1362-1.


Survivin (also named BIRC5) is a well-known cancer therapeutic target. Since its discovery more than two decades ago, the use of survivin as a target for cancer therapeutics has remained a central goal of survivin studies in the cancer field. Many studies have provided intriguing insight into survivin's functional role in cancers, thus providing promise for survivin as a cancer therapeutic target. Despite this, moving survivin-targeting agents into and through the clinic remains a challenge. In order to address this challenge, we may need to rethink current strategies in order to develop a new mindset for targeting survivin. In this Review, we will first summarize the current survivin mechanistic studies, and then review the status of survivin cancer therapeutics, which is classified into five categories: (i) survivin-partner protein interaction inhibitors, (ii) survivin homodimerization inhibitors, (iii) survivin gene transcription inhibitors, (iv) survivin mRNA inhibitors and (v) survivin immunotherapy. We will then provide our opinions on cancer therapeutics using survivin as a target, with the goal of stimulating discussion that might facilitate translational research for discovering improved strategies and/or more effective anticancer agents that target survivin for cancer therapy.

Keywords: BIRC5; FL118; Mcl-1; MdmX; Survivin cancer therapeutics; XIAP; YM155; cIAP2; survivin; survivin immunotherapy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Humans
  • Molecular Targeted Therapy*
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Prognosis
  • Survivin / antagonists & inhibitors*


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • BIRC5 protein, human
  • Survivin