Apoptosis in cancer: key molecular signaling pathways and therapy targets

Acta Oncol. 2009;48(6):811-21. doi: 10.1080/02841860902974175.


Apoptosis is a physiological process vital for embryologic development and the maintenance of homeostasis in multicellular organisms, but it is also involved in a wide range of pathological processes, including cancer. In mammalian cells, apoptosis has been divided into two major pathways: the extrinsic pathway, activated by proapoptotic receptor signals at the cellular surface, and the intrinsic pathway, which involves the disruption of mitochondrial membrane integrity. Although many of the proteins vital for apoptosis have been identified, the molecular pathways of cellular death still remain to be elucidated. This review provides references concerning the apoptotic molecules, their interactions, the mechanisms involved in apoptosis resistance, and also the modulation of apoptosis for the treatment of cancer.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis*
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Signal Transduction*