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Semin Oncol. 2004 Dec;31(6 Suppl 16):18-21; discussion 33.

Unraveling biologic therapy for Bcl-2-expressing malignancies.

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St Bartholomew's and the Royal London School of Medicine and Dentistry Queen Mary & Westfield, University of London, London, UK.


Cancer cells that express excessive levels of Bcl-2 pose a major problem in the delivery of curative therapy. Most treatments for such cancer involve chemotherapy to induce the apoptotic process. While these therapies often result in disease control for periods of time, failure to initiate apoptosis as a result of acquired resistance limits the effectiveness of treatment for many common hematopoietic and solid malignancies, and ultimately death from the malignancy still occurs. Various anti-apoptotic proteins of the Bcl-2 family that localize to the mitochondria appear to be involved in this resistance mechanism. However, recent advances in the understanding of malignant cell biology, achieved through both genomics and proteomics, have made it possible to explore novel approaches directed at re-establishing sensitivity to chemotherapy, presenting an attractive strategy for cancer treatment. In this article we discuss how this may be achieved by lowering Bcl-2 anti-apoptotic protein expression using antisense oligonucleotides or, alternatively, by functionally antagonizing Bcl-2 using ligands of the mitochondrial benzodiazepine receptor.

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