Targeting the central melanocortin system for the treatment of metabolic disorders

Patrick Sweeney, Luis E. Gimenez, Ciria C. Hernandez, Roger D. Cone

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


A large body of preclinical and clinical data shows that the central melanocortin system is a promising therapeutic target for treating various metabolic disorders such as obesity and cachexia, as well as anorexia nervosa. Setmelanotide, which functions by engaging the central melanocortin circuitry, was approved by the FDA in 2020 for use in certain forms of syndromic obesity. Furthermore, the FDA approvals in 2019 of two peptide drugs targeting melanocortin receptors for the treatment of generalized hypoactive sexual desire disorder (bremelanotide) and erythropoietic protoporphyria-associated phototoxicity (afamelanotide) demonstrate the safety of this class of peptides. These approvals have also renewed excitement in the development of therapeutics targeting the melanocortin system. Here, we review the anatomy and function of the melanocortin system, discuss progress and challenges in developing melanocortin receptor-based therapeutics, and outline potential metabolic and behavioural disorders that could be addressed using pharmacological agents targeting these receptors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)507-519
Number of pages13
JournalNature Reviews Endocrinology
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism


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