At variance to solid tumors, which show percentage of p53 deletions and/or mutations close to 50%, more than 80% of haematological malignancies express wild-type p53 at diagnosis. Therefore, activation of the p53 pathway by antagonizing its negative regulator murine double minute 2 (MDM2) might offer a new therapeutic strategy for the great majority of haematological malignancies. Recently, potent and selective small-molecule MDM2 inhibitors, the Nutlins, have been identified. Studies with these compounds have strengthened the concept that selective, non-genotoxic p53 activation might represent an alternative to the current cytotoxic chemotherapy. Interestingly, Nutlins not only are able to induce apoptotic cell death when added to primary leukemic cell cultures, but also show a synergistic effect when used in combination with the chemotherapeutic drugs commonly used for the treatment of haematological malignancies. Of interest, Nutlins also display non-cell autonomous biological activities, such as inhibition of vascular endothelial growth factor, stromal derived factor-1/CXCL12 and osteprotegerin expression and/or release by primary fibroblasts and endothelial cells. Moreover, Nutlins have a direct anti-angiogenic and anti-osteoclastic activity. Thus, Nutlins might have therapeutic effects by two distinct mechanisms: a direct cytotoxic effect on leukemic cells and an indirect non-cell autonomous effect on tumor stromal and vascular cells, and this latter effect might be therapeutically relevant also for treatment of haematological malignancies carrying p53 mutations.
Keywords: Haematological malignancies, p53 pathway, apoptosis, cell-cycle, chemotherapeutic drugs, TRAIL/TRAILreceptor system, angiogenesis, osteolysis
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