Time-of-day specificity of anticancer drugs may be mediated by circadian regulation of the cell cycle

Sci Adv. 2021 Feb 12;7(7):eabd2645. doi: 10.1126/sciadv.abd2645. Print 2021 Feb.


Circadian rhythms are an integral part of physiology, underscoring their relevance for the treatment of disease. We conducted cell-based high-throughput screening to investigate time-of-day influences on the activity of known antitumor agents and found that many compounds exhibit daily rhythms of cytotoxicity concomitant with previously reported oscillations of target genes. Rhythmic action of HSP90 inhibitors was mediated by specific isoforms of HSP90, genetic perturbation of which affected the cell cycle. Furthermore, clock mutants affected the cell cycle in parallel with abrogating rhythms of cytotoxicity, and pharmacological inhibition of the cell cycle also eliminated rhythmic drug effects. An HSP90 inhibitor reduced growth rate of a mouse melanoma in a time-of-day-specific manner, but efficacy was impaired in clock-deficient tumors. These results provide a powerful rationale for appropriate daily timing of anticancer drugs and suggest circadian regulation of the cell cycle within the tumor as an underlying mechanism.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents* / pharmacology
  • Cell Cycle
  • Cell Division
  • Circadian Rhythm / genetics
  • Mice
  • Neoplasms*


  • Antineoplastic Agents