Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences CMLS

, Volume 62, Issue 7–8, pp 784–790 | Cite as

Host defense peptides as new weapons in cancer treatment

  • N. Papo
  • Y. ShaiEmail author
Visions & Reflections


In the last decade intensive research has been conducted to determine the role of innate immunity host defense peptides (also termed antimicrobial peptides) in the killing of prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells. Many antimicrobial peptides damage the cellular membrane as part of their killing mechanism. However, it is not clear what makes cancer cells more susceptible to some of these peptides, and what the molecular mechanisms underlying these activities are. Two general mechanisms were suggested: (i) plasma membrane disruption via micellization or pore formation, and (ii) induction of apoptosis via mitochondrial membrane disruption. To be clinically used, these peptides need to combine high and specific anticancer activity with stability in serum. Although so far very limited, new studies have paved the way for promising anticancer host defense peptides with a new mode of action and with a broad spectrum of anticancer activity.

Key words.

Host defense peptides cytolytic peptides lytic peptides anticancer peptides amphipatic peptides model membranes antimicrobial peptides membrane permeabilization 


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Copyright information

© Birkhäuser Verlag, Basel 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biological ChemistryThe Weizmann Institute of ScienceRehovotIsrael

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