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Cancer Cell. 2004 Jan;5(1):1-2.

Antagonizing XIAP-mediated caspase-3 inhibition. Achilles' heel of cancers?

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Department of Biochemistry, Weill Medical College of Cornell University, 1300 York Avenue, New York, NY 10021, USA.


In this issue of Cancer Cell, Schimmer et al. report the identification of small molecule antagonists of XIAP that overcome its inhibition of caspase-3. It was remarkable that the compounds directly induced cell death in tumor cells while having little toxicity on normal cells. This suggests that caspases are already activated in tumor cells, which is different from the caspase activation status in normal mammalian cells. In comparison with Smac peptides targeting XIAP-mediated caspase-9 inhibition, which do not directly induce cell death, it appears that liberating downstream caspases rather than upstream caspases may be a preferred strategy for cancer drug discovery.

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