Necroptosis: an alternative cell death program defending against cancer

Biochim Biophys Acta. 2016 Apr;1865(2):228-36. doi: 10.1016/j.bbcan.2016.03.003. Epub 2016 Mar 8.


One of the hallmarks of cancer is resistance to programmed cell death, which maintains the survival of cells en route to oncogenic transformation and underlies therapeutic resistance. Recent studies demonstrate that programmed cell death is not confined to caspase-dependent apoptosis, but includes necroptosis, a form of necrotic death governed by Receptor-Interacting Protein 1 (RIP1), RIP3, and Mixed Lineage Kinase Domain-Like (MLKL) protein. Necroptosis serves as a critical cell-killing mechanism in response to severe stress and blocked apoptosis, and can be induced by inflammatory cytokines or chemotherapeutic drugs. Genetic or epigenetic alterations of necroptosis regulators such as RIP3 and cylindromatosis (CYLD), are frequently found in human tumors. Unlike apoptosis, necroptosis elicits a more robust immune response that may function as a defensive mechanism by eliminating tumor-causing mutations and viruses. Furthermore, several classes of anticancer agents currently under clinical development, such as SMAC and BH3 mimetics, can promote necroptosis in addition to apoptosis. A more complete understanding of the interplay among necroptosis, apoptosis, and other cell death modalities is critical for developing new therapeutic strategies to enhance killing of tumor cells.

Keywords: Cancer; MLKL; Necroptosis; RIP1; RIP3.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology
  • Apoptosis*
  • Humans
  • Necrosis
  • Neoplasms / immunology*
  • Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Virus Diseases / immunology
  • Virus Diseases / pathology


  • Antineoplastic Agents