The pathogenesis of many diseases is most closely related to inappropriate apoptosis (either too little or too much) and cancer is one of the situations where too little apoptosis happens, leading to malignant cells that highly proliferate. Defects at any points along apoptotic pathways may lead to malignant transformation of the affected cells, tumor metastasis, and resistance to anti-cancer drugs. Several major molecular mechanisms are involved in the evasion of apoptosis in cancer initiation and progression. Bcl-2 family of proteins and caspases are the central players in the apoptotic mechanism and regulate cell death. Their imperfections cause to the deficient apoptotic signaling and thereby the inadequate apoptosis in cancer cells and eventually carcinogenesis. Strategies targeting these master regulators in carcinoma cells has been a major focus of interest in cancer studies. Therefore, despite being the cause of problem, apoptosis can be targeted in cancer therapy. This chapter provides a comprehensive review of apoptotic cell death and how deficiencies in apoptotic master regulators, caspases and Bcl-2 family proteins, influence carcinogenesis and can be targeted in cancer treatment.
Part of the book: Regulation and Dysfunction of Apoptosis