Epigenetic polypharmacology: from combination therapy to multitargeted drugs

Angel R. de Lera, A. Ganesan

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115 Citations (Scopus)
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The modern drug discovery process has largely focused its attention in the so-called magic bullets, single chemical entities that exhibit high selectivity and potency for a particular target. This approach was based on the assumption that the deregulation of a protein was causally linked to a disease state, and the pharmacological intervention through inhibition of the deregulated target was able to restore normal cell function. However, the use of cocktails or multicomponent drugs to address several targets simultaneously is also popular to treat multifactorial diseases such as cancer and neurological disorders. We review the state of the art with such combinations that have an epigenetic target as one of their mechanisms of action. Epigenetic drug discovery is a rapidly advancing field, and drugs targeting epigenetic enzymes are in the clinic for the treatment of hematological cancers. Approved and experimental epigenetic drugs are undergoing clinical trials in combination with other therapeutic agents via fused or linked pharmacophores in order to benefit from synergistic effects of polypharmacology. In addition, ligands are being discovered which, as single chemical entities, are able to modulate multiple epigenetic targets simultaneously (multitarget epigenetic drugs). These multiple ligands should in principle have a lower risk of drug-drug interactions and drug resistance compared to cocktails or multicomponent drugs. This new generation may rival the so-called magic bullets in the treatment of diseases that arise as a consequence of the deregulation of multiple signaling pathways provided the challenge of optimization of the activities shown by the pharmacophores with the different targets is addressed.
Original languageEnglish
Article number105
JournalClinical Epigenetics
Publication statusPublished - 12 Oct 2016


  • Polypharmacology
  • Epigenetic drugs
  • Combination therapies

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