Heat shock proteins (HSPs) are a large family of chaperones that are involved in protein folding and maturation of a variety of “client” proteins protecting them from degradation, oxidative stress, hypoxia, and thermal stress. Hence, they are significant regulators of cellular proliferation, differentiation and strongly implicated in the molecular orchestration of cancer development and progression as many of their clients are well established oncoproteins in multiple tumor types. Interestingly, tumor cells are more HSP chaperonage-dependent than normal cells for proliferation and survival because the oncoproteins in cancer cells are often misfolded and require augmented chaperonage activity for correction. This led to the development of several inhibitors of HSP90 and other HSPs that have shown promise both preclinically and clinically in the treatment of cancer. In this article, we comprehensively review the roles of some of the important HSPs in cancer, and how targeting them could be efficacious, especially when traditional cancer therapies fail.
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