Preclinical and clinical studies indicate a role for AS ODNs (antisense oligonucleotides) as therapeutics for malignant diseases. The principle of antisense technology is the sequence-specific binding of an AS ODN to the target mRNA, resulting in a translational arrest. The specificity of hybridization makes antisense strategy attractive to selectively modulate the expression of genes involved in the pathogenesis of malignant diseases. One antisense drug has been approved for local therapy of CMV (cytomegalovirus) retinitis, and a number of AS ODNs are currently being tested in clinical trials, including AS ODN targeting Bcl-2, XIAP (X-linked inhibitor of apoptosis protein) and TGF-β-2 (transforming growth factor β-2). AS ODNs are well tolerated and may have therapeutic activity. In particular, an AS ODN to Bcl-2 has been tested in phase III clinical trials in chronic lymphocytic leukaemia, multiple myeloma and malignant melanoma. In this review, therapeutic concepts, clinical studies and new promising molecular targets to treat malignancies with AS ODNs are summarized.

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