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Asian Pac J Cancer Prev. 2015;16(6):2129-44.

Molecular mechanisms of apoptosis and roles in cancer development and treatment.

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Department of Biochemistry and Clinical Labratorary, Division of Medical Genetics, Faculty of Medicine, Tabriz University of Medical Sciences, Tabriz, Iran E-mail :


Programmed cell death (PCD) or apoptosis is a mechanism which is crucial for all multicellular organisms to control cell proliferation and maintain tissue homeostasis as well as eliminate harmful or unnecessary cells from an organism. Defects in the physiological mechanisms of apoptosis may contribute to different human diseases like cancer. Identification of the mechanisms of apoptosis and its effector proteins as well as the genes responsible for apoptosis has provided a new opportunity to discover and develop novel agents that can increase the sensitivity of cancer cells to undergo apoptosis or reset their apoptotic threshold. These novel targeted therapies include those targeting anti-apoptotic Bcl-2 family members, p53, the extrinsic pathway, FLICE-inhibitory protein (c-FLIP), inhibitor of apoptosis (IAP) proteins, and the caspases. In recent years a number of these novel agents have been assessed in preclinical and clinical trials. In this review, we introduce some of the key regulatory molecules that control the apoptotic pathways, extrinsic and intrinsic death receptors, discuss how defects in apoptotic pathways contribute to cancer, and list several agents being developed to target apoptosis.

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