Molecular mechanisms of cereblon-interacting small molecules in multiple myeloma therapy

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleResearchpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Thalidomide analogues (or immunomodulatory imide drugs, IMiDs) are cornerstones in the treatment of multiple myeloma (MM). These drugs bind Cereblon (CRBN), a receptor for the Cullin-ring 4 ubiquitin-ligase (CRL4) complex, to modify its substrate specificity. IMiDs mediate CRBN-dependent engagement and proteasomal degradation of ‘neosubstrates’, Ikaros (IKZF1) and Aiolos (IKZF3), conveying concurrent antimyeloma activity and T-cell costimulation. There is now a greater understanding of physiological CRBN functions, including endogenous substrates and chaperone activity. CRISPR Cas9-based genome-wide screening has further elucidated the complex cellular machinery implicated in IMiD sensitivity, including IKZF1/3-independent mechanisms. New-generation IMiD derivatives with more potent anti-cancer properties—the CELMoDs (Cereblon E3 ligase modulators)—are now being evaluated. Rational drug design also allows ‘hijacking’ of CRL4CRBN utilising proteolysis targeting chimeras (PROTACs) to convey entirely distinct substrate repertoires. As all these chemotypes—thalidomide, IMiDs, CELMoDs and PROTACs—engage CRBN and modify its functions, we describe them here in aggregate as ‘CRBN-interacting small molecules’ (CISMs). In this review, we provide a contemporary summary of the biological consequences of CRBN modulation by CISMs. Detailed molecular insight into CRBN–CISM interactions now provides an opportunity to more effectively target previously elusive cancer dependencies, representing a new and powerful tool for the implementation of precision medicine.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1185
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Personalized Medicine
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2021


  • CELMoDs
  • Cereblon
  • IMiDs
  • Multiple myeloma
  • Thalidomide

Cite this