As many as half of all human tumors carry a mutation in the p53 gene—a gene that normally inhibits tumor growth through its ability to induce apoptosis (cellular suicide) of the aberrant cells. Now scientists in Sweden and Russia have discovered a compound that restores function to a mutant p53 gene, a discovery that could point the way to a new class of anticancer drugs (Nat Med. 2002;8:282-288).
The researchers screened a number of compounds in a search for an agent that would restore the activity of p53. They found that one such compound, PRIMA-1, triggered apoptosis in human tumor cells in vitro, and resulted in significantly decreased tumor size when injected into mice carrying human tumors.
Stephenson J. Overriding a Cancer Gene. JAMA. 2002;287(14):1794. doi:10.1001/jama.287.14.1794-JWM20004-3-1