Targeting CDK9 for anti-cancer therapeutics

  • Simple Summary: CDK9, in combination with Cyclin T1, is one of the major regulators of RNA Polymerase II mediated productive transcription of critical genes in any cell. The activity of CDK9 is significantly up-regulated in a wide variety of cancer entities, to aid in the overexpression of genes responsible for the regulation of functions, which are beneficial to the cancer cells, like proliferation, survival, cell cycle regulation, DNA damage repair and metastasis. Enhanced CDK9 activity, therefore, leads to poorer prognosis in many cancer types, offering the rationale to target it using small-molecule inhibitors. Several, increasingly specific inhibitors, have been developed, some of which are presently in clinical trials. Other approaches being tested involve combining inhibitors against CDK9 activity with those against CDK9’s upstream regulators like BRD4, SEC and HSP90; or downstream effectors like cMYC and MCL-1. The inhibition of CDK9’s activity holds the potential to be a highly effective anti-cancer therapeutic. Abstract: Cyclin Dependent Kinase 9 (CDK9) is one of the most important transcription regulatory members of the CDK family. In conjunction with its main cyclin partner—Cyclin T1, it forms the Positive Transcription Elongation Factor b (P-TEFb) whose primary function in eukaryotic cells is to mediate the positive transcription elongation of nascent mRNA strands, by phosphorylating the S2 residues of the YSPTSPS tandem repeats at the C-terminus domain (CTD) of RNA Polymerase II (RNAP II). To aid in this process, P-TEFb also simultaneously phosphorylates and inactivates a number of negative transcription regulators like 5,6-dichloro-1-β-D-ribofuranosylbenzimidazole (DRB) Sensitivity-Inducing Factor (DSIF) and Negative Elongation Factor (NELF). Significantly enhanced activity of CDK9 is observed in multiple cancer types, which is universally associated with significantly shortened Overall Survival (OS) of the patients. In these cancer types, CDK9 regulates a plethora of cellular functions including proliferation, survival, cell cycle regulation, DNA damage repair and metastasis. Due to the extremely critical role of CDK9 in cancer cells, inhibiting its functions has been the subject of intense research, resulting the development of multiple, increasingly specific small-molecule inhibitors, some of which are presently in clinical trials. The search for newer generation CDK9 inhibitors with higher specificity and lower potential toxicities and suitable combination therapies continues. In fact, the Phase I clinical trials of the latest, highly specific CDK9 inhibitor BAY1251152, against different solid tumors have shown good anti-tumor and on-target activities and pharmacokinetics, combined with manageable safety profile while the phase I and II clinical trials of another inhibitor AT-7519 have been undertaken or are undergoing. To enhance the effectiveness and target diversity and reduce potential drug-resistance, the future of CDK9 inhibition would likely involve combining CDK9 inhibitors with inhibitors like those against BRD4, SEC, MYC, MCL-1 and HSP90.

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Author:Ranadip MandalORCiDGND, Sven BeckerORCiDGND, Klaus StrebhardtORCiD
Parent Title (English):Cancers
Place of publication:Basel
Document Type:Article
Date of Publication (online):2021/05/01
Date of first Publication:2021/05/01
Publishing Institution:Universitätsbibliothek Johann Christian Senckenberg
Release Date:2021/08/18
Tag:BRD4; CDK9; Cyclin T1; MYC; RNAP II; Transcription; apoptosis
Issue:9, art. 2181
Page Number:31
First Page:1
Last Page:31
This study was funded by Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) (R. Mandal, Nr.: MA9266/2-1); Deutsche Krebshilfe (K. Strebhardt, Nr.:  70114007); and German Cancer Consortium(DKTK, Heidelberg).
Dewey Decimal Classification:6 Technik, Medizin, angewandte Wissenschaften / 61 Medizin und Gesundheit / 610 Medizin und Gesundheit
Licence (German):License LogoCreative Commons - Namensnennung 4.0