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Crit Rev Clin Lab Sci. 2006;43(1):1-67.

BCL2 family of apoptosis-related genes: functions and clinical implications in cancer.

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Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Faculty of Biology, University of Athens, Panepistimiopolis, 15701 Athens, Greece.


One of the most effective ways to combat different types of cancer is through early diagnosis and administration of effective treatment, followed by efficient monitoring that will allow physicians to detect relapsing disease and treat it at the earliest possible time. Apoptosis, a normal physiological form of cell death, is critically involved in the regulation of cellular homeostasis. Dysregulation of programmed cell death mechanisms plays an important role in the pathogenesis and progression of cancer as well as in the responses of tumours to therapeutic interventions. Many members of the BCL2 (B-cell CLL/lymphoma 2; Bcl-2) family of apoptosis-related genes have been found to be differentially expressed in various malignancies, and some are useful prognostic cancer biomarkers. We have recently cloned a new member of this family, BCL2L12, which was found to be differentially expressed in many tumours. Most of the BCL2 family genes have been found to play a central regulatory role in apoptosis induction. Results have made it clear that a number of coordinating alterations in the BCL2 family of genes must occur to inhibit apoptosis and provoke carcinogenesis in a wide variety of cancers. However, more research is required to increase our understanding of the extent to which and the mechanisms by which they are involved in cancer development, providing the basis for earlier and more accurate cancer diagnosis, prognosis and therapeutic intervention that targets the apoptosis pathways. In the present review, we describe current knowledge of the function and molecular characteristics of a series of classic but also newly discovered genes of the BCL2 family as well as their implications in cancer development, prognosis and treatment.

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