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Cancer cell death 

Cancer cell death
Chapter:
Cancer cell death
Author(s):

Amanda S. Coutts

, Sandra Maniam

, and Nicholas B. La Thangue

DOI:
10.1093/med/9780199656103.003.0005

May 25, 2017: This chapter has been re-evaluated and remains up-to-date. No changes have been necessary.

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date: 20 August 2019

Inducing cancer cell death is the basis of the majority of cancer treatments and understanding the mechanisms that control cell death is of prime clinical importance. As a defining feature of cancer is the ability to circumvent cell death pathways, understanding the mechanisms involved is also important in the development of novel therapeutic agents. This chapter outlines three main mechanisms involved in cancer cell death—apoptosis, necroptosis, and autophagy—to give an overview of some of the specific pathways involved. There are a plethora of genetic and epigenetic changes in tumour cells that can circumvent apoptotic pathways; as such understanding and developing therapies that can target other death-signalling pathways could have great clinical significance. Given the complexity involved in the variety of cell death mechanisms, the challenge in oncology is how to harness these different modes of cell death in order to effectively eliminate cancer cells.

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