Integrins are a large family of dimeric receptors composed by α and β subunits that, once bound to extracellular matrix (ECM) proteins, regulate a variety of cellular processes such as cell motility, migration, and proliferation. The integrins transduce signals from inside-out and outside-in the cell, thus representing the cellular link to the external environment. For these properties, integrin activation has been involved in pathological processes like tumor growth and metastasis formation. Recent advances in the elucidation of the crystallographic structures of the αvβ3 and αIIβ3 integrins are promoting studies focused to the search of small molecule antagonists that can block the integrin binding to ECM and inhibit the biological effects exerted by these receptors. In this review we will focus on small molecule antagonists of αvβ3 and αvβ5 integrin as tools for cancer therapy while other integrins will only be briefly mentioned. Cilengitide (cyclic peptidic αvβ3 and αvβ5 antagonist) is currently in clinical trials for anti cancer therapy. Combination of integrin αvβ3 antagonists and other traditional therapeutic approaches may represent a future strategy to inhibit tumor growth and metastasis spreading.
Keywords: Integrin antagonists, RGD-peptides, metastasis, anoikis
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