Typical antitumor drugs disrupt the flow of biochemical information from DNA to proteins with the aim of precluding uncontrolled cell proliferation and inducing cancer cell apoptosis. However, most of the currently used small antitumor drugs are genotoxic because they act over DNA. Pharmaceutical industry is now searching for a new line of cancer chemotherapeutics without genotoxic effects. Ribonucleases (RNases) are small basic proteins, present in all life forms, which belong to this kind of chemotherapeutics. Some of them present with remarkable selective antitumor activity linked to their ability to destroy RNA, a powerful way to control gene expression, leaving DNA unharmed. In the last two decades, the knowledge gained on the cytotoxic mechanism of these RNases has been used to engineer more powerful and selective variants to kill cancer cells. In this chapter, we describe the advances reached in endowing an RNase with antitumor abilities.
Part of the book: Anti-cancer Drugs