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Clin Cancer Res. 2015 Nov 15;21(22):5021-9. doi: 10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-15-0364.

BCL-2 Antagonism to Target the Intrinsic Mitochondrial Pathway of Apoptosis.

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Department of Medical Oncology, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, Massachusetts.
Department of Medical Oncology, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, Massachusetts.


Despite significant improvements in treatment, cure rates for many cancers remain suboptimal. The rise of cytotoxic chemotherapy has led to curative therapy for a subset of cancers, though intrinsic treatment resistance is difficult to predict for individual patients. The recent wave of molecularly targeted therapies has focused on druggable-activating mutations, and is thus limited to specific subsets of patients. The lessons learned from these two disparate approaches suggest the need for therapies that borrow aspects of both, targeting biologic properties of cancer that are at once distinct from normal cells and yet common enough to make the drugs widely applicable across a range of cancer subtypes. The intrinsic mitochondrial pathway of apoptosis represents one such promising target for new therapies, and successfully targeting this pathway has the potential to alter the therapeutic landscape of therapy for a variety of cancers. Here, we discuss the biology of the intrinsic pathway of apoptosis, an assay known as BH3 profiling that can interrogate this pathway, early attempts to target BCL-2 clinically, and the recent promising results with the BCL-2 antagonist venetoclax (ABT-199) in clinical trials in hematologic malignancies. See all articles in this CCR Focus section, "Cell Death and Cancer Therapy."

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