Purpose of review: Apoptosis, or programmed cell death, is a vital physiologic process to eliminate damaged or unwanted cells. Defects in apoptosis promote tumor formation and make cancer cells resistant to therapy. This review provides an overview of recent advances in the understanding of apoptosis in human cancer cells.
Recent findings: Recent studies revealed that the apoptotic machinery in humans consists of a molecular network of a large number of proteins. These proteins regulate a cascade of events in signaling, commitment and execution stages of apoptosis through multiple parallel pathways. Delineation of the basic mechanisms of apoptosis has shed light on how apoptosis is deregulated in human cancer cells. Therapeutic strategies based on apoptosis have also been designed to selectively target tumor cells.
Summary: Understanding the basic mechanisms of apoptosis and determining how cancer cells evade apoptosis will afford discoveries of new molecular targets and better cancer therapies.