Deregulated apoptosis is a hallmark of cancer, and the B-cell lymphoma-2 (Bcl-2) family of proteins is pivotal to mediating the intrinsic pathway of this process. Recent advances have yielded both pan-Bcl-2 small molecule inhibitors (SMIs) that inhibit both the Bcl-2 and the Mcl-1 arm of the Bcl-2 family anti-apoptotic proteins, as well as selective SMIs to differentially target the two arms. Of these SMIs, ABT-263 (navitoclax), AT-101 [(-)-gossypol], and obatoclax (GX15-070) are currently in clinical trials for multiple cancers. While pan-Bcl-2 inhibitors such as AT-101 and obatoclax can be more toxic for inhibiting all members of the anti-apoptotic Bcl-2 family of proteins, resistance can quickly develop for ABT-263, a selective Bcl-2 inhibitor. In this article, we discuss the current status of Bcl-2 family SMIs in preclinical and clinical development. As Mcl-1 upregulation is a major mechanism of ABT-263 resistance, Mcl-1-specific inhibitors are expected to be efficacious both in combination/sequential treatments and as a single agent against cancers resistant to ABT-263.
The article is published online in the journal Communicative & Integrative Biology and is free to access.