Ras as a target in cancer therapy.
Midgley RS., Kerr DJ.
Ras proteins are guanine nucleotide-binding proteins that are central to the control of normal and transformed cell growth and that are mutated in approximately 30% of human cancers. Binding of ligands to various growth factor receptors activates Ras and subsequently a plethora of downstream effectors including the Raf-1/mitogen-activated protein kinase pathway. For effective ras functioning and for transformation, Ras proteins must undergo post-translational modifications that facilitate their attachment to the plasma membrane. Farnesylation, catalysed by farnesyl protein transferase (FPT), is the first and the most important of these modifications; inhibition of which ablates ras activity, resulting in significant anti-proliferative effect in vitro and in human cancer xenograft models. FPT inhibitors are being assessed in a range of phase I and phase II trials, which incorporate both pharmacokinetic and dynamic end-points. In addition, ras mutations can also generate neo-epitopes for cytotoxic and helper T-cell recognition, rendering ras-mutated tumours a potential target for immunotherapy. Though their clinical evaluation is still in infancy, these two modes of ras targeting represent rational therapeutic strategies that can undergo mechanistic evaluation in the clinic.