Cancer therapy relies on the employment of different strategies aimed at inducing cancer cell death through different mechanisms, including DNA damage and apoptosis induction. One of the key regulators of these pathways is the epigenetic enzyme SIRT6, which has been shown to have a dichotomous function in cell fate determination and, consequently, cancer initiation and progression. In this review, we aim to summarize the current knowledge on the role of SIRT6 in cancer. We show that it can act as both tumor suppressor and promoter, even in the same cancer type, depending on the biological context. We then describe the most promising modulators of SIRT6 which, through enzyme activation or inhibition, may impair tumor growth. These molecules can also be used for the elucidation of SIRT6 function, thereby advancing the current knowledge on this crucial protein.
Sirtuin 6 (SIRT6) is a NAD +-dependent nuclear deacylase and mono-ADP-ribosylase with a wide spectrum of substrates. Through its pleiotropic activities, SIRT6 modulates either directly or indirectly key processes linked to cell fate determination and oncogenesis such as DNA damage repair, metabolic homeostasis, and apoptosis. SIRT6 regulates the expression and activity of both pro-apoptotic (e.g., Bax) and anti-apoptotic factors (e.g., Bcl-2, survivin) in a context-depending manner. Mounting evidence points towards a double-faced involvement of SIRT6 in tumor onset and progression since the block or induction of apoptosis lead to opposite outcomes in cancer. Here, we discuss the features and roles of SIRT6 in the regulation of cell death and cancer, also focusing on recently discovered small molecule modulators that can be used as chemical probes to shed further light on SIRT6 cancer biology and proposed as potential new generation anticancer therapeutics.