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GLI1 is a transcription factor that has been identified as a downstream effector for multiple tumorigenic signaling pathways. These include the Hedgehog, RAS-RAF-MEK-ERK, and PI3K-AKT-mTOR pathways, which have all been separately validated as individual anti-cancer drug targets. The identification of GLI1 as a key transcriptional regulator for each of these pathways highlights its promise as a therapeutic target. Small molecule GLI1 inhibitors are potentially efficacious against human malignancies arising from multiple oncogenic mechanisms. This review provides an overview of the key oncogenic cellular pathways that regulate GLI1 transcriptional activity. It also provides a detailed account of small molecule GLI1 inhibitors that are currently under development as potential anti-cancer chemotherapeutics. Interest in developing inhibitors of GLI1-mediated transcription has significantly increased as its role in multiple oncogenic signaling pathways has been elucidated. To date, it has proven difficult to directly target GLI1 with small molecules, and the majority of compounds that inhibit GLI1 activity function through indirect mechanisms. To date, no direct-acting GLI1 inhibitor has entered clinical trials. The identification and development of new scaffolds that can bind and directly inhibit GLI1 are essential to further advance this class of chemotherapeutics.


Christopher O Dusek, M Kyle Hadden. Targeting the GLI family of transcription factors for the development of anti-cancer drugs. Expert opinion on drug discovery. 2021 Mar;16(3):289-302

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PMID: 33006903

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