Myc (avian myelocytomatosis viral oncogene homolog) represents one of the most sought after drug targets in cancer. Myc transcription factor is an essential regulator of cell growth, but in most cancers it is overexpressed and associated with treatment-resistance and lethal outcomes. Over 40 years of research and drug development efforts did not yield a clinically useful Myc inhibitor. Drugging the “undruggable” is problematic, as Myc inactivation may negatively impact its physiological functions. Moreover, Myc is a disordered protein that lacks effective binding pockets on its surface. It is well established that the Myc function is dependent on dimerization with its obligate partner, Max (Myc associated factor X), which together form a functional DNA-binding domain to activate genomic targets. Herein, we provide an overview of the knowledge accumulated to date on Myc regulation and function, its critical role in cancer, and summarize various strategies that are employed to tackle Myc-driven malignant transformation. We focus on important structure-function relationships of Myc with its interactome, elaborating structural determinants of Myc-Max dimer formation and DNA recognition exploited for therapeutic inhibition. Chronological development of small-molecule Myc-Max prototype inhibitors and corresponding binding sites are comprehensively reviewed and particular emphasis is placed on modern computational drug design methods. On the outlook, technological advancements may soon provide the so long-awaited Myc-Max clinical candidate.
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