Cell death and cancer
© 2014 Springer Science+Business Media New York. All rights are reserved. Research into the mechanisms and regulation of cell death has not only given insights into how cancers arise but also provided targets for the development of novel treatments. A cancer is a clonally related population of cells that persists, in part, because cells with altered DNA have been able to survive. It follows that genetic mutations that prevent a cell from killing itself are likely to promote the development of cancer. On the other hand, a therapy for cancer will be effective if it causes cancer cells to die at a greater rate than the rate at which new cancer cells are produced, provided that the treatment does not cause damage to normal cells that are incompatible with survival of the patient. As most conventional chemotherapies provoke cell suicide in addition to having direct toxic effects, cancer cells that express high levels of cell death inhibitors will be resistant to treatment but might be susceptible to a combination of conventional chemotherapy combined with drugs that antagonise cell death inhibitory proteins, such as members of the Bcl-2 and IAP protein families.