Mission Possible: Advances in MYC Therapeutic Targeting in Cancer

Brittany L. Allen-Petersen, Rosalie C. Sears

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

86 Scopus citations


MYC is a master transcriptional regulator that controls almost all cellular processes. Over the last several decades, researchers have strived to define the context-dependent transcriptional gene programs that are controlled by MYC, as well as the mechanisms that regulate MYC function, in an effort to better understand the contribution of this oncoprotein to cancer progression. There are a wealth of data indicating that deregulation of MYC activity occurs in a large number of cancers and significantly contributes to disease progression, metastatic potential, and therapeutic resistance. Although the therapeutic targeting of MYC in cancer is highly desirable, there remain substantial structural and functional challenges that have impeded direct MYC-targeted drug development and efficacy. While efforts to drug the ‘undruggable’ may seem futile given these challenges and considering the broad reach of MYC, significant strides have been made to identify points of regulation that can be exploited for therapeutic purposes. These include targeting the deregulation of MYC transcription in cancer through small-molecule inhibitors that induce epigenetic silencing or that regulate the G-quadruplex structures within the MYC promoter. Alternatively, compounds that disrupt the DNA-binding activities of MYC have been the long-standing focus of many research groups, since this method would prevent downstream MYC oncogenic activities regardless of upstream alterations. Finally, proteins involved in the post-translational regulation of MYC have been identified as important surrogate targets to reduce MYC activity downstream of aberrant cell stimulatory signals. Given the complex regulation of the MYC signaling pathway, a combination of these approaches may provide the most durable response, but this has yet to be shown. Here, we provide a comprehensive overview of the different therapeutic strategies being employed to target oncogenic MYC function, with a focus on post-translational mechanisms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)539-553
Number of pages15
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 1 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Pharmacology
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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