Drugs targeting the cell cycle-regulatory cyclin-dependent kinase (CDK) 4 and 6 have been approved for the treatment of hormone receptor-positive breast cancer, and inhibitors targeting other cell-cycle CDKs are currently in clinical trials. Another class of CDKs, the transcription-associated CDKs, including CDK7, CDK8, CDK9, CDK12 and CDK13, are critical regulators of gene expression. Recent evidence suggests several novel functions of these CDKs, including regulation of epigenetic modifications, intronic polyadenylation, DNA-damage responses, and genomic stability. Here, we summarize our current understanding of the transcriptional CDKs, their utility as biomarkers, and their potential as therapeutic targets. SIGNIFICANCE: CDK inhibitors targeting CDK4 and CDK6 have been approved in hormone receptor-positive breast cancer, and inhibitors targeting other cell-cycle CDKs are currently in clinical trials. Several studies now point to potential therapeutic opportunities by inhibiting the transcription-associated CDKs as well as therapeutic vulnerabilities with PARP inhibitors and immunotherapy in tumors deficient in these CDKs.
©2020 American Association for Cancer Research.