Are nutlins paving the way for improving the future of cancer treatment?

Scientists discover secret to promising new cancer drug

A mystery about how a promising new class of anti-cancer drugs, called nutlins, work has been discovered by scientists, paving the way for improving the future of cancer treatment.


Therapeutic Response to Non-genotoxic Activation of p53 by Nutlin3a Is Driven by PUMA-Mediated Apoptosis in Lymphoma Cells, cell, March 1, 2016.

Nutlin3a is a small-molecule antagonist of MDM2 that promotes non-genotoxic activation of p53 through p53 protein stabilization and transactivation of p53 target genes. Nutlin3a is the forerunner of a class of cancer therapeutics that have reached clinical trials.

Scientists discover secret to promising new cancer drug, sciencedaily, February 19, 2016.

Using transgenic and gene-targeted mouse models lacking the critical p53 target genes, p21, Puma, and Noxa, we found that only loss of PUMA conferred profound protection against Nutlin3a-induced killing in both non-transformed lymphoid cells and Eμ-Myc lymphomas in vitro and in vivo. CRISPR/Cas9-mediated targeting of the PUMA gene rendered human hematopoietic cancer cell lines markedly resistant to Nutlin3a-induced cell death. These results demonstrate that PUMA-mediated apoptosis, but not p21-mediated cell-cycle arrest or senescence, is a critical determinant of the therapeutic response to non-genotoxic p53 activation by Nutlin3a.

Importantly, in human cancer, PUMA expression may predict patient responses to treatment with MDM2 antagonists.