One form of programmed cell death (PCD) is apoptosis. Defective apoptosis is an indispensable causative factor in the development of cancer that allows cancer cells to survive longer and favors the accumulation of oncogenic mutations. Further, upregulation of antiapoptotic proteins (e.g., Bcl-2, Mcl-1) and loss of pro-apoptotic proteins (e.g., Bid, Bad, Bax, Bak) strongly favors apoptosis evasion. The ability of cancer cells to evade apoptosis is critical for the progression and clonal expansion of malignantly transformed cells. Defective apoptosis imparts proliferative advantage to cancer cells or cells with the potential to become cancerous. The mechanisms employed by cancer cells to evade apoptosis can be used in the strategic design of therapeutic regimens aimed at exploiting apoptotic signaling networks to ensure tumor-specific cell death. Therefore, to ensure tumor-specific cell death, we may need to exploit the expression and/or function of different components of apoptotic signaling that are critical for maintaining cell survival and are regulated differently in tumor cells than normal cells. Both inhibitors of anti-apoptotic proteins and activators of pro-apoptotic proteins can be used for cancer therapy. In this chapter, we attempted to summarize the knowledge about the molecular mechanisms of defective apoptosis that could be translated into the development of novel therapeutic agents and therapeutic modalities for cancer treatment.
Part of the book: Regulation and Dysfunction of Apoptosis