On the Clinical Pharmacology of Reactive Oxygen Species

Ana Casas*, Cristian Nogales, Hermann A. M. Mucke, Alexandra Petraina, Antonio Cuadrado, Ana Rojo, Pietro Ghezzi, Vincent Jaquet, Fiona Augsburger, Francois Dufrasne, Jalal Soubhye, Soni Deshwal, Moises Di Sante, Nina Kaludercic, Fabio Di Lisa, Harald H. H. W. Schmidt*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal(Systematic) Review article peer-review

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Reactive oxygen species (ROS) have been correlated with almost every human disease. Yet clinical exploitation of these hypotheses by pharmacological modulation of ROS has been scarce to nonexistent. Are ROS, thus, irrelevant for disease? No. One key misconception in the ROS field has been its consideration as a rather detrimental metabolic byproduct of cell metabolism, and thus, any approach eliminating ROS to a certain tolerable level would be beneficial. We now know, instead, that ROS at every concentration, low or high, can serve many essential signaling and metabolic functions. This likely explains why systemic, nonspecific antioxidants have failed in the clinic, often with neutral and sometimes even detrimental outcomes. Recently, drug development has focused, instead, on identifying and selectively modulating ROS enzymatic sources that in a given constellation cause disease while leaving ROS physiologic signaling and metabolic functions intact. As sources, the family of NADPH oxidases stands out as the only enzyme family solely dedicated to ROS formation. Selectively targeting disease-relevant ROS-related proteins is already quite advanced, as evidenced by several phase II/III clinical trials and the first drugs having passed registration. The ROS field is expanding by including target enzymes and maturing to resemble more and more modern, big data-enhanced drug discovery and development, including network pharmacology. By defining a disease based on a distinct mechanism, in this case ROS dysregulation, and not by a symptom or phenotype anymore, ROS pharmacology is leaping forward from a clinical underperformer to a proof of concept within the new era of mechanism-based precision medicine.

Significance Statement-Despite being correlated to almost every human disease, nearly no ROS modulator has been translated to the clinics yet. Here, we move far beyond the old-fashioned misconception of ROS as detrimental metabolic by-products and suggest 1) novel pharmacological targeting focused on selective modulation of ROS enzymatic sources, 2) mechanism-based redefinition of diseases, and 3) network pharmacology within the ROS field, altogether toward the new era of ROS pharmacology in precision medicine.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)801-828
Number of pages28
JournalPharmacological Reviews
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2020



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