Archives of Toxicology

, Volume 86, Issue 11, pp 1649–1665 | Cite as

Oxidative stress in apoptosis and cancer: an update

  • José M. Matés
  • Juan A. Segura
  • Francisco J. Alonso
  • Javier Márquez
Review Article


The oxygen paradox tells us that oxygen is both necessary for aerobic life and toxic to all life forms. Reactive oxygen species (ROS) touch every biological and medical discipline, especially those involving proliferative status, supporting the idea that active oxygen may be increased in tumor cells. In fact, metabolism of oxygen and the resulting toxic byproducts can cause cancer and death. Efforts to counteract the damage caused by ROS are gaining acceptance as a basis for novel therapeutic approaches, and the field of prevention of cancer is experiencing an upsurge of interest in medically useful antioxidants. Apoptosis is an important means of regulating cell numbers in the developing cell system, but it is so important that it must be controlled. Normal cell death in homeostasis of multicellular organisms is mediated through tightly regulated apoptotic pathways that involve oxidative stress regulation. Defective signaling through these pathways can contribute to both unbalance in apoptosis and development of cancer. Finally, in this review, we discuss new knowledge about recent tools that provide powerful antioxidant strategies, and designing methods to deliver to target cells, in the prevention and treatment of cancer.


Antioxidants DNA damage p53 Reactive oxygen species Signaling Superoxide dismutase 



Adenoviral vector expressing SOD


Apoptosis-activating factor


Activator protein-1


Apoptosis signal-regulating kinase 1




Cyclic adenosine monophosphate




cAMP-responsive element binding protein


Extracellular superoxide dismutase


Epoxide hydrolase


Extracellular signal-regulated kinase




Glutathione peroxidase


Glutathione reductase




Oxidized glutathione


Glutathione S-transferase


Glucuronosyl transferase


Hydrogen peroxide


Human immunodeficiency virus


Human umbilical vein endothelial cell


c-Jun NH2-terminal kinase


Mitogen-activated protein kinase


Murine double minute


Necrosis factor kappa B


NAD(P)H:quinone oxidoreductase


Oxidized low-density lipoproteins


Superoxide anion radical


Proliferating cell nuclear antigen


Small protein domains


Reactive oxygen species


Stress-activated protein kinases


Superoxide dismutase


Tumor necrosis factor



Ministerio de Educación of Spain, PHB2010-0014-PC; Ministerio de Ciencia y Tecnología of Spain, SAF2010-17573; Junta de Andalucía, Proyectos de Investigación de Excelencia, Convocatoria 2010, CVI-6656, Spain; grant RD06/1012 of the RTA RETICS network from the Spanish Health Institute Carlos III; and Consejería de Salud, Junta de Andalucía, PI-0825-2010, Spain.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • José M. Matés
    • 1
  • Juan A. Segura
    • 1
  • Francisco J. Alonso
    • 1
  • Javier Márquez
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Biología Molecular y Bioquímica, Facultad de CienciasUniversidad de MálagaMálagaSpain

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