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Apoptosis. 2005 Aug;10(4):687-705.

Mitochondria: A novel target for the chemoprevention of cancer.

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Department of Clinical Pharmacy, School of Pharmacy, The University of Colorado at Denver and Health Sciences Center, Denver, CO 80262, USA.


The mitochondria have emerged as a novel target for anticancer chemotherapy. This tenet is based on the observations that several conventional and experimental chemotherapeutic agents promote the permeabilization of mitochondrial membranes in cancerous cells to initiate the release of apoptogenic mitochondrial proteins. This ability to engage mitochondrial-mediated apoptosis directly using chemotherapy may be responsible for overcoming aberrant apoptosis regulatory mechanisms commonly encountered in cancerous cells. Interestingly, several putative cancer chemopreventive agents also possess the ability to trigger apoptosis in transformed, premalignant, or malignant cells in vitro via mitochondrial membrane permeabilization. This process may occur through the regulation of Bcl-2 family members, or by the induction of the mitochondrial permeability transition. Thus, by exploiting endogenous mitochondrial-mediated apoptosis-inducing mechanisms, certain chemopreventive agents may be able to block the progression of premalignant cells to malignant cells or the dissemination of malignant cells to distant organ sites as means of modulating carcinogenesis in vivo. This review will examine cancer chemoprevention with respect to apoptosis, carcinogenesis, and the proapoptotic activity of various chemopreventive agents observed in vitro. In doing so, I will construct a paradigm supporting the notion that the mitochondria are a novel target for the chemoprevention of cancer.

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