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Am J Cancer Res. 2011;1(1):43-61. Epub 2010 Sep 30.

Harnessing the cell death pathway for targeted cancer treatment.

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Department of Radiation Oncology, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Vanderbilt University Medical Center and Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center Nashville Tennessee, USA.


Genotoxic agents have long targeted apoptotic cell death as a primary means of treating cancer. However, the presence of cellular defects in many cancers has contributed to an acquired resistance to apoptotic cell death, lowering the effectiveness of chemo- and radiotherapies. The mechanisms by which cells achieve this resistance to treatment are still being investigated, but an alternative approach is the study of cell death pathways that are mechanistically distinct from apoptosis. These pathways, including autophagy and necrosis, have arisen as attractive targets for cancer therapy. This review will discuss apoptosis, autophagy, and necrosis in the context of tumorigenesis and drug resistance, as well as provide an up-to-date preclinical and clinical review of inhibitors targeting these cell death pathways for multiple cancer types. The goal of these studies is to identify molecular targets that will enhance the efficacy and specificity of current cancer therapies.


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