Anticancer therapy targeting the apoptotic pathway

Lancet Oncol. 2003 Dec;4(12):721-9. doi: 10.1016/s1470-2045(03)01277-4.


Apoptosis, or programmed cell death, has an essential role in controlling cell number in many developmental and physiological settings and in chemotherapy-induced tumour-cell killing. It is a genetically regulated biological process, guided by the ratio of proapoptotic and antiapoptotic proteins. Recently, inducers of apoptosis have been used in cancer therapy. Several studies have attempted to induce apoptosis by triggering the tumour-necrosis-factor-related apoptosis-inducing ligand receptor and the BCL2 family of proteins, and others have targeted the caspases, and proteins that inhibit apoptosis. Most of these therapies are still in preclinical development because of their low efficacy and susceptibility to drug resistance, but some of them have shown promising results. In this article, we review the development and clinical efficacy of proapoptotic drugs that have shown promise.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Apoptosis / drug effects*
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Drug Delivery Systems
  • Humans
  • Mitochondria / metabolism
  • Models, Biological
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / genetics


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha