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ISRN Oncology
Volume 2013 (2013), Article ID 536529, 14 pages
Review Article

Activated Ras as a Therapeutic Target: Constraints on Directly Targeting Ras Isoforms and Wild-Type versus Mutated Proteins

Department of Pharmacology, Wayne State University, 540 East Canfield Avenue, Detroit, MI 48201, USA

Received 15 September 2013; Accepted 4 October 2013

Academic Editors: M. Folini, M. Santarosa, and R. V. Sionov

Copyright © 2013 Raymond R. Mattingly. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


The ability to selectively and directly target activated Ras would provide immense utility for treatment of the numerous cancers that are driven by oncogenic Ras mutations. Patients with disorders driven by overactivated wild-type Ras proteins, such as type 1 neurofibromatosis, might also benefit from progress made in that context. Activated Ras is an extremely challenging direct drug target due to the inherent difficulties in disrupting the protein:protein interactions that underlie its activation and function. Major investments have been made to target Ras through indirect routes. Inhibition of farnesyl transferase to block Ras maturation has failed in large clinical trials. Likely reasons for this disappointing outcome include the significant and underappreciated differences in the isoforms of Ras. It is still plausible that inhibition of farnesyl transferase will prove effective for disease that is driven by activated H-Ras. The principal current focus of drugs entering clinic trial is inhibition of pathways downstream of activated Ras, for example, trametinib, a first-in-class MEK inhibitor. The complexity of signaling that is driven by activated Ras indicates that effective inhibition of oncogenic transduction through this approach will be difficult, with resistance being likely to emerge through switch to parallel pathways. Durable disease responses will probably require combinatorial block of several downstream targets.