Myc pathways provoking cell suicide and cancer

Oncogene. 2003 Dec 8;22(56):9007-21. doi: 10.1038/sj.onc.1207261.


A paradox for the cancer biology field has been the revelation that oncogenes, once thought to simply provide advantages to a cancer cell, actually put it at dire risk of cell suicide. Myc is the quintessential oncogene in this respect, as in normal cells it is required for cell cycle traverse, whereas in cancers it is overexpressed and functions as the angiogenic switch. Nonetheless, Myc overexpression kills normal cells dead in their tracks. Here we review Myc-induced pathways that contribute to the apoptotic response. Molecular analysis of Myc-induced tumors has established that some of these apoptotic pathways are essential checkpoints that guard the cell from cancer, as they are selectively bypassed during tumorigenesis. The precise mechanism(s) by which Myc targets these pathways are largely unresolved, but we propose that they involve crosstalk and feedback regulatory loops between arbiters of cell death.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Apoptosis*
  • Feedback
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Genes, bcl-2
  • Genes, myc*
  • Genes, p53
  • Humans
  • Mitochondria / metabolism
  • Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Receptors, Tumor Necrosis Factor
  • Signal Transduction


  • Receptors, Tumor Necrosis Factor