The TP53 tumor suppressor is the most frequently altered gene in human cancers, and has been a major focus of oncology research. The p53 protein is a transcription factor that can activate the expression of multiple target genes and plays critical roles in regulating cell cycle, apoptosis, and genomic stability, and is widely regarded as the "guardian of the genome". Accumulating evidence has shown that p53 also regulates cell metabolism, ferroptosis, tumor microenvironment, autophagy and so on, all of which contribute to tumor suppression. Mutations in TP53 not only impair its tumor suppressor function, but also confer oncogenic properties to p53 mutants. Since p53 is mutated and inactivated in most malignant tumors, it has been a very attractive target for developing new anti-cancer drugs. However, until recently, p53 was considered an "undruggable" target and little progress has been made with p53-targeted therapies. Here, we provide a systematic review of the diverse molecular mechanisms of the p53 signaling pathway and how TP53 mutations impact tumor progression. We also discuss key structural features of the p53 protein and its inactivation by oncogenic mutations. In addition, we review the efforts that have been made in p53-targeted therapies, and discuss the challenges that have been encountered in clinical development.
© 2023. The Author(s).