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Open Access Highly Accessed Review

Apoptosis in cancer: from pathogenesis to treatment

Rebecca SY Wong

Author Affiliations

Division of Human Biology, School of Medical and Health Sciences, International Medical University. No. 126, Jalan Jalil Perkasa 19, Bukit Jalil 57000 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Journal of Experimental & Clinical Cancer Research 2011, 30:87  doi:10.1186/1756-9966-30-87

Published: 26 September 2011

Abstract

Apoptosis is an ordered and orchestrated cellular process that occurs in physiological and pathological conditions. It is also one of the most studied topics among cell biologists. An understanding of the underlying mechanism of apoptosis is important as it plays a pivotal role in the pathogenesis of many diseases. In some, the problem is due to too much apoptosis, such as in the case of degenerative diseases while in others, too little apoptosis is the culprit. Cancer is one of the scenarios where too little apoptosis occurs, resulting in malignant cells that will not die. The mechanism of apoptosis is complex and involves many pathways. Defects can occur at any point along these pathways, leading to malignant transformation of the affected cells, tumour metastasis and resistance to anticancer drugs. Despite being the cause of problem, apoptosis plays an important role in the treatment of cancer as it is a popular target of many treatment strategies. The abundance of literature suggests that targeting apoptosis in cancer is feasible. However, many troubling questions arise with the use of new drugs or treatment strategies that are designed to enhance apoptosis and critical tests must be passed before they can be used safely in human subjects.

Keywords:
Apoptosis; defective apoptotic pathways; carcinogenesis; treatment target