TP53 (p53) is the single most frequently altered gene in human cancers, with mutations being present in approximately 50% of all invasive tumours. However, in some of the most difficult-to-treat cancers such as high-grade serous ovarian cancers, triple-negative breast cancers, oesophageal cancers, small-cell lung cancers and squamous cell lung cancers, p53 is mutated in at least 80% of samples. Clearly, therefore, mutant p53 protein is an important candidate target against which new anticancer treatments could be developed. Although traditionally regarded as undruggable, several compounds such as p53 reactivation and induction of massive apoptosis-1 (PRIMA-1), a methylated derivative and structural analogue of PRIMA-1, i.e. APR-246, 2-sulfonylpyrimidines such as PK11007, pyrazoles such as PK7088, zinc metallochaperone-1 (ZMC1), a third generation thiosemicarbazone developed by Critical Outcome Techonologies Inc. (COTI-2) as well as specific peptides have recently been reported to reactive mutant p53 protein by converting it to a form exhibiting wild-type properties. Consistent with the reactivation of mutant p53, these compounds have been shown to exhibit anticancer activity in preclinical models expressing mutant p53. To date, two of these compounds, i.e. APR-246 and COTI-2 have progressed to clinical trials. A phase I/IIa clinical trial with APR-246 reported no major adverse effect. Currently, APR-246 is undergoing a phase Ib/II trial in patients with advanced serous ovarian cancer, while COTI-2 is being evaluated in a phase I trial in patients with advanced gynaecological cancers. It remains to be shown however, whether any mutant p53 reactivating compound has efficacy for the treatment of human cancer.
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