Williams Cancer Institute

Apoptosis

We discussed drugs and supplements that help your body against its battle with cancer, and
we mentioned apoptosis. But what exactly is apoptosis, and why it’s essential to achieve
this in the treatments? The definition provided by the National Cancer Institute is “a type
of cell death in which a series of molecular steps in a cell lead to its death. This is one method
the body uses to eliminate unneeded or abnormal cells.”
So, every cell in our body has its date of death programmed as it is born; when cancer
appears, it creates and activates a lot of mechanisms known as Hallmarks of Cancer – a set
of functional capabilities acquired by human cells as they make their way from typically to
neoplastic growth states -. One of these capabilities is the mechanism to resist programmed
cell death with the overexpression of antiapoptotic proteins and under-expression of
proapoptotic proteins, enabling cancer cells’ “immortality,” giving cancer more time to
produce mutations that increase invasiveness during tumor progression.
Therefore, one of the things we aim for with the different types of immunotherapies is the
effective elimination of cancer cells by apoptosis; some anti-cancer agents directly target
apoptotic pathways. Targeting apoptosis is effective for all types of cancer as apoptosis is
nonspecific to the cause of the type of cancer. Two common strategies for therapeutic
targeting are the stimulation of proapoptotic molecules and the inhibition of antiapoptotic
ones.
As of now, no antiapoptotic therapy stands out from other ones; aiming this pathway is an
effective option as it is universal for all cancer types. Many plant-derived compounds have
been studied to have an apoptotic effect that is nontoxic to healthy cells.

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