Targeted Oncology

, Volume 1, Issue 4, pp 197–214 | Cite as

Apoptosis: mechanisms and implications for cancer therapeutics

  • Monica M. Mita
  • Alain C. Mita
  • Anthony W. Tolcher


Apoptosis, or programmed cell death, is essential for many physiological and pathological processes. Apoptosis results from an orderly activation of several cysteine proteases called caspases, which can be classically triggered by two upstream pathways: the intrinsic and extrinsic pathways. Deregulation of apoptosis is essential for tumor growth and a hallmark of cancer cells. In the recent years, many key elements of the apoptotic process have been identified and have become strategic targets for anticancer therapy. The novel approaches that target the apoptotic pathway may have either a direct proapoptotic effect or alternatively may sensitize cancer cells to other cytotoxics. This review describes the major elements of the apoptotic process, with a special focus of the tight interactions between the extrinsic and intrinsic pathways, and summarizes some of the most promising implications for cancer therapeutics.


Apoptosis Caspases Intrinsic pathway Extrinsic pathway TRAIL Bcl-2 IAPs Survivin 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Monica M. Mita
    • 1
    • 2
  • Alain C. Mita
    • 1
    • 2
  • Anthony W. Tolcher
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Institute for Drug DevelopmentCancer Therapy and Research CenterSan AntonioUSA
  2. 2.University of Texas Health Science Center at San AntonioSan AntonioUSA

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