Cutting-edge apoptosis-based therapeutics: a panacea for cancer?

BioDrugs. 2007;21(5):273-97. doi: 10.2165/00063030-200721050-00001.


Defects in programmed cell death or apoptosis are major hallmarks of cancer contributing to tumorigenesis, tumor progression, and therapy resistance. In the past decade, many of the pathways leading to apoptosis, as well as the molecular mechanisms blocking the death of tumor cells, have been elucidated. This detailed knowledge of the core apoptosis machinery is now being exploited for translation into novel cancer therapies in order to restore apoptosis induction in tumor cells. Strategies include activation of proapoptotic mediators such as death receptors, tumor protein p53, and second mitochondria-derived activator of caspases (SMAC)/DIABLO as well as inhibition of endogenous apoptosis inhibitors such as IAPs (inhibitor of apoptosis proteins) and BCL-2 (B-cell chronic lymphoid leukemia/lymphoma) proteins. Several approaches employing gene therapy and antisense strategies, recombinant biologics, or classic organic and combinatorial chemistry, have advanced into clinical trials or are already approved. This review looks at recent developments in apoptosis-based cancer therapies and highlights some very promising advances in drug design.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anticarcinogenic Agents / chemistry
  • Anticarcinogenic Agents / pharmacology
  • Anticarcinogenic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Apoptosis / drug effects*
  • Drug Design
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • TNF-Related Apoptosis-Inducing Ligand / chemistry
  • TNF-Related Apoptosis-Inducing Ligand / pharmacology
  • TNF-Related Apoptosis-Inducing Ligand / therapeutic use*
  • Technology, Pharmaceutical / methods
  • Technology, Pharmaceutical / trends


  • Anticarcinogenic Agents
  • TNF-Related Apoptosis-Inducing Ligand