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The MYCN oncoprotein as a drug development target

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Xiaohong Lu, Professor Andrew Pearson, Professor John LunecORCiD


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The transcription factor and proto-oncogene MYCN is reviewed as a potential specific target for cancer therapy. Amplification of MYCN is frequently found in a number of advanced-stage tumours, including neuroblastoma (25%), small cell lung cancers (7%), alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma and retinoblastoma. It is associated with rapid tumour progression and poor outcome in human neuroblastoma. MYCN is a member of the myc family of proto-oncogenes which encode nuclear proteins that form heterodimers with MAX protein through their conserved HLHZip domains. The MYC/MAX complexes transactivate a number of MYC-target genes in a sequence-specific manner. MYC-MAX interaction is essential for MYC-induced cell cycle progression, cellular transformation, and transcriptional activation. A causal link between the transformed phenotype and MYCN has been established by a range of in vitro and in vivo studies, including a transgenic model of neuroblastoma in which MYCN overexpression is targeted to neuronal tissue by the use of a tyrosine hydroxylase promoter. Downregulation of MYCN expression either by antisense treatment targeted against MYCN mRNA or by retinoids has been shown to decrease proliferation and/or induce neuronal differentiation of neuroblastoma cells. Inhibition of MYC-MAX dimerisation by small-molecule antagonists has recently been shown to interfere with MYC-induced transformation of chick embryo fibroblasts, indicating that functional inhibitors of the MYC family of oncoproteins have potential as therapeutic agents. Finally, we describe the development and validation of a functional MYCN reporter gene assay using neuroblastoma cells (NGP) which have been stably transfected with a luciferase gene construct under control of the ornithine decarboxylase gene promoter. This assay has been used for a pilot screen of 2800 compounds from the Cancer Research-UK collection, identifying five compounds showing a consistent significant reduction of MYCN-dependent luciferase activity (>50%) in repeated screens. This cell-based, MYCN reporter gene assay will be scaled up for high throughput screens of compound libraries and will aid in the future development of specific therapeutic strategies in neuroblastoma and other tumours in which MYCN amplification has been implicated. © 2003 Elsevier Science Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Lu, X., Pearson, A.D.J., Lunec, J.

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Cancer Letters

Year: 2003

Volume: 197

Issue: 1-2

Pages: 125-130

Print publication date: 18/07/2003

ISSN (print): 0304-3835

ISSN (electronic): 1872-7980


DOI: 10.1016/S0304-3835(03)00096-X

PubMed id: 12880971


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