Nuclear factor-kappa B, cancer, and apoptosis

Biochem Pharmacol. 2000 Oct 15;60(8):1085-9. doi: 10.1016/s0006-2952(00)00391-9.


The role of nuclear factor (NF)-kappa B in the regulation of apoptosis in normal and cancer cells has been extensively studied in recent years. Constitutive NF-kappa B activity in B lymphocytes as well as in Hodgkin's disease and breast cancer cells protects these cells against apoptosis. It has also been reported that NF-kappa B activation by tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha, chemotherapeutic drugs, or ionizing radiations can protect several cell types against apoptosis, suggesting that NF-kappa B could participate in resistance to cancer treatment. These observations were explained by the regulation of antiapoptotic gene expression by NF-kappa B. However, in our experience, inhibition of NF-kappa B activity in several cancer cell lines has a very variable effect on cell mortality, depending on the cell type, the stimulus, and the level of NF-kappa B inhibition. Moreover, in some experimental systems, NF-kappa B activation is required for the onset of apoptosis. Therefore, it is likely that the NF-kappa B antiapoptotic role in response to chemotherapy is cell type- and signal-dependent and that the level of NF-kappa B inhibition is important. These issues will have to be carefully investigated before considering NF-kappa B as a target for genetic or pharmacological anticancer therapies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / genetics*
  • Cell Cycle / genetics
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic*
  • Humans
  • NF-kappa B / physiology*
  • Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Neoplasms / pathology


  • NF-kappa B