Targeted Oncology

, Volume 5, Issue 4, pp 281–289

Therapeutically targeting the SUMOylation, Ubiquitination and Proteasome pathways as a novel anticancer strategy


DOI: 10.1007/s11523-010-0165-2

Cite this article as:
Driscoll, J.J. & DeChowdhury, R. Targ Oncol (2010) 5: 281. doi:10.1007/s11523-010-0165-2


The ubiquitin (Ub)+proteasome proteolytic pathway is responsible for the selective degradation of the majority of nuclear and cytosolic proteins. The proteasome is a high molecular weight multicatalytic protease that serves as the catalytic core of the complex Ub-dependent protein degradation pathway and is an exciting new target for the development of novel anticancer therapies. Inhibition of the proteasome, and consequently Ub-dependent proteolysis, with the small molecule pharmacologic agent bortezomib led to approval by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of multiple myeloma (MM) that has subsequently been extended to other hematologic malignancies. Inhibition of the proteasome results in the intracellular accumulation of many ubiquitinated proteins that control essential cellular functions such as cellular growth and apoptosis. The accumulation of high molecular weight Ub~protein conjugates eventually triggers apoptosis, with tumor cells more susceptible to proteasome inhibition than non-malignant cells. The defined mechanism of action for proteasome inhibitors has not been completely characterized, not all patients respond to proteasome inhibitor-based therapy, and inevitably patients develop resistance to proteasome inhibitors. Further investigation of the Ub+proteasome system (UPS) is needed to develop more effective inhibitors, to develop agents that overcome bortezomib resistance and to avoid adverse effects such as neuropathy. Furthermore, there are newly uncovered pathways, e.g., the SUMOylation and NEDDylation pathways, which similarly attach Ub-like proteins (ULPs) to protein substrates. The functional consequence of these modifications is only beginning to emerge, but these pathways have been linked to tumorigenesis and may similarly provide therapeutic targets. The immunoproteasome is a specialized form of the proteasome that produces peptides that are presented at the cell surface as major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class I antigens. Proteasome inhibitors decrease the presentation of antigenic peptides to reduce tumor cell recognition by cytotoxic T cells (CTLs) but unexpectedly increase tumor cell recognition by natural killer (NK) cells. Inhibitors of the UPS are validated, cytotoxic agents that may be further exploited in immunotherapy since they modulate tumor cell recognition by effectors of the immune system. Targeting the UPS, SUMOylation and NEDDylation pathways offers great promise in the treatment of hematologic and solid malignancies.


Ubiquitin Proteasome Bortezomib SUMOylation NEDDylation 

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag (outside the USA) 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Medical Oncology Branch, Magnuson Cancer Center, National Cancer InstituteNational Institutes of HealthBethesdaUSA

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