In just over two decades since the discovery of the first microRNA (miRNA), the field of miRNA biology has expanded considerably. Insights into the roles of miRNAs in development and disease, particularly in cancer, have made miRNAs attractive tools and targets for novel therapeutic approaches. Functional studies have confirmed that miRNA dysregulation is causal in many cases of cancer, with miRNAs acting as tumour suppressors or oncogenes (oncomiRs), and miRNA mimics and molecules targeted at miRNAs (antimiRs) have shown promise in preclinical development. Several miRNA-targeted therapeutics have reached clinical development, including a mimic of the tumour suppressor miRNA miR-34, which reached phase I clinical trials for treating cancer, and antimiRs targeted at miR-122, which reached phase II trials for treating hepatitis. In this article, we describe recent advances in our understanding of miRNAs in cancer and in other diseases and provide an overview of current miRNA therapeutics in the clinic. We also discuss the challenge of identifying the most efficacious therapeutic candidates and provide a perspective on achieving safe and targeted delivery of miRNA therapeutics.
Nucleic acid aptamers, often termed 'chemical antibodies', are functionally comparable to traditional antibodies, but offer several advantages, including their relatively small physical size, flexible structure, quick chemical production, versatile chemical modification, high stability and lack of immunogenicity. In addition, many aptamers are internalized upon binding to cellular receptors, making them useful targeted delivery agents for small interfering RNAs (siRNAs), microRNAs and conventional drugs. However, several crucial factors have delayed the clinical translation of therapeutic aptamers, such as their inherent physicochemical characteristics and lack of safety data. This Review discusses these challenges, highlighting recent clinical developments and technological advances that have revived the impetus for this promising class of therapeutics.
The targeting of vascular endothelial growth factor A (VEGFA), a crucial regulator of both normal and pathological angiogenesis, has revealed innovative therapeutic approaches in oncology and ophthalmology. The first VEGFA inhibitor, bevacizumab, was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration in 2004 for the first-line treatment of metastatic colorectal cancer, and the first VEGFA inhibitors in ophthalmology, pegaptanib and ranibizumab, were approved in 2004 and 2006, respectively. To mark this tenth anniversary of anti-VEGFA therapy, we discuss the discovery of VEGFA, the successes and challenges in the development of VEGFA inhibitors and the impact of these agents on the treatment of cancers and ophthalmic diseases.
The key role of interleukin-17 (IL-17) and T helper 17 (T(H)17) cells in tissue inflammation, autoimmunity and host defence led to the experimental targeting of these molecules in mouse models of diseases as well as in clinical settings. Moreover, the demonstration that IL-17 and T(H)17 cells contribute to local and systemic aspects of disease pathogenesis, as well as the finding that the IL-17-T(H)17 cell pathway is regulated by IL-23, prompted the identification of inhibitors. These inhibitors include biotechnology products that target IL-23 as well as the leading member of the IL-17 family, IL-17A, and one of its receptors, IL-17 receptor A. Several clinical trials of these inhibitors are underway, and positive results have been obtained in psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis. This Review focuses on the current knowledge of the IL-17-T(H)17 cell pathway to better understand the positive as well as potential negative consequences of targeting them.
Agonists of seven-transmembrane receptors, also known as G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs), do not uniformly activate all cellular signalling pathways linked to a given seven-transmembrane receptor (a phenomenon termed ligand or agonist bias); this discovery has changed how high-throughput screens are designed and how lead compounds are optimized for therapeutic activity. The ability to experimentally detect ligand bias has necessitated the development of methods for quantifying agonist bias in a way that can be used to guide structure activity studies and the selection of drug candidates. Here, we provide a viewpoint on which methods are appropriate for quantifying bias, based on knowledge of how cellular and intracellular signalling proteins control the conformation of seven-transmembrane receptors. We also discuss possible predictions of how biased molecules may perform in vivo, and what potential therapeutic advantages they may provide.
Since the regulatory approval of ipilimumab in 2011, the field of cancer immunotherapy has been experiencing a renaissance. This success is based on progress in both preclinical and clinical science, including the development of new methods of investigation. Immuno-oncology has become a sub-specialty within oncology owing to its unique science and its potential for substantial and long-term clinical benefit. Immunotherapy agents do not directly attack the tumour but instead mobilize the immune system - this can be achieved through various approaches that utilize adaptive or innate immunity. Therefore, immuno-oncology drug development encompasses a broad range of agents, including antibodies, peptides, proteins, small molecules, adjuvants, cytokines, oncolytic viruses, bi-specific molecules and cellular therapies. This Perspective summarizes the recent history of cancer immunotherapy, including the factors that led to its success, provides an overview of novel drug-development considerations, summarizes three generations of immunotherapies that have been developed since 2011 and, thus, illustrates the breadth of opportunities these new generations of immunotherapies represent.
Our understanding of the mechanisms mediating or moderating the placebo response to medicines has grown substantially over the past decade and offers the opportunity to capitalize on its benefits in future drug development as well as in clinical practice. In this article, we discuss three strategies that could be used to modulate the placebo response, depending on which stage of the drug development process they are applied. In clinical trials the placebo effect should be minimized to optimize drug-placebo differences, thus ensuring that the efficacy of the investigational drug can be truly evaluated. Once the drug is approved and in clinical use, placebo effects should be maximized by harnessing patients' expectations and learning mechanisms to improve treatment outcomes. Finally, personalizing placebo responses - which involves considering an individual's genetic predisposition, personality, past medical history and treatment experience - could also maximize therapeutic outcomes.
GABA(A) (gamma-aminobutyric acid, type A) receptors are a family of ligand-gated ion channels that are essential for the regulation of central nervous system function. Benzodiazepines - which non-selectively target GABA(A) receptors containing the alpha 1, alpha 2, alpha 3 or alpha 5 subunits - have been in clinical use for decades and are still among the most widely prescribed drugs for the treatment of insomnia and anxiety disorders. However, their use is limited by side effects and the risk of drug dependence. In the past decade, the identification of separable key functions of GABA(A) receptor subtypes suggests that receptor subtype-selective compounds could overcome the limitations of classical benzodiazepines; furthermore, they might be valuable for novel indications such as chronic pain, depression, schizophrenia, cognitive enhancement and stroke.
NF-κB transcription factors play a key role in many physiological processes, such as innate and adaptive immune responses, cell proliferation, cell death, and inflammation. It has become clear that aberrant regulation of NF-κB and the signaling pathways that control its activity are involved in cancer development and progression, as well as in resistance to chemo- and radiotherapy. This review discusses recent cancer-genetics and cancer-genome evidence for the involvement of NF-κB in human cancer, and discusses the therapeutic potential and benefit of targeting NF-κB in cancer and the possible complications and pitfalls of such an approach.
Nuclear factor kappa B (NF-kappa B) transcription factors have a key role in many physiological processes such as innate and adaptive immune responses, cell proliferation, cell death, and inflammation. It has become clear that aberrant regulation of NF-kappa B and the signalling pathways that control its activity are involved in cancer development and progression, as well as in resistance to chemotherapy and radiotherapy. This article discusses recent evidence from cancer genetics and cancer genome studies that support the involvement of NF-kappa B in human cancer, particularly in multiple myeloma. The therapeutic potential and benefit of targeting NF-kappa B in cancer, and the possible complications and pitfalls of such an approach, are explored.
The conversion of cells with an epithelial phenotype into cells with a mesenchymal phenotype, referred to as epithelial-mesenchymal transition, is a critical process for embryonic development that also occurs in adult life, particularly during tumour progression. Tumour cells undergoing epithelial-mesenchymal transition acquire the capacity to disarm the body's antitumour defences, resist apoptosis and anticancer drugs, disseminate throughout the organism, and act as a reservoir that replenishes and expands the tumour cell population. Epithelial-mesenchymal transition is therefore becoming a target of prime interest for anticancer therapy. Here, we discuss the screening and classification of compounds that affect epithelial-mesenchymal transition, highlight some compounds of particular interest, and address issues related to their clinical application.
For the past decade, the number of molecular targets for approved drugs has been debated. Here, we reconcile apparently contradictory previous reports into a comprehensive survey, and propose a consensus number of current drug targets for all classes of approved therapeutic drugs. One striking feature is the relatively constant historical rate of target innovation ( the rate at which drugs against new targets are launched); however, the rate of developing drugs against new families is significantly lower. The recent approval of drugs that target protein kinases highlights two additional trends: an emerging realization of the importance of polypharmacology, and also the power of a gene-family-led approach in generating novel and important therapies.
Angiogenesis - the process of new blood-vessel growth - has an essential role in development, reproduction and repair. However, pathological angiogenesis occurs not only in tumour formation, but also in a range of nonneoplastic diseases that could be classed together as 'angiogenesis-dependent diseases'. By viewing the process of angiogenesis as an 'organizing principle' in biology, intriguing insights into the molecular mechanisms of seemingly unrelated phenomena might be gained. This has important consequences for the clinical use of angiogenesis inhibitors and for drug discovery, not only for optimizing the treatment of cancer, but possibly also for developing therapeutic approaches for various diseases that are otherwise unrelated to each other.