Survivin is the smallest member of the Inhibitor of apoptosis (IAP) family of proteins, involved in inhibition of apoptosis and regulation of cell cycle. These functional attributes make Survivin a unique protein exhibiting divergent functions i.e. regulating cell proliferation and cell death. Expression pattern of Survivin is also distinctive; it is prominently expressed during embryonal development, absent in most normal, terminally differentiated tissues but upregulated in a variety of human cancers. Expression of Survivin in tumours correlates with not only inhibition of apoptosis and a decreased rate of cell death, but also resistance to chemotherapy and aggressiveness of tumours. Therefore, Survivin is an important target for cancer vaccines and therapeutics. Survivin has also been found to be prominently expressed on both human and embryonic stem cells and many somatic stem cell types indicating its yet unexplored role in stem cell generation and maintenance. Overall, Survivin emerges as a molecule with much wider role in cellular homeostasis. This review will discuss various aspects of Survivin biology and its role in regulation of apoptosis, cell division, chemo-resistance and tumour progression. Various molecular and immunotherapeutic approaches targeting Survivin will also be discussed.
Keywords: Apoptosis; IAPs; Immunotherapy; Survivin.