Cells are supposed to die—not in a random way, but as the result of their own internal programming. These cells may be infected by a virus or have a mistake in their genetic code. As a quality control mechanism, cells have the ability, even the responsibility, to commit suicide. This genetic program, called apoptosis, plays a critical role in balancing cell production and loss, preventing unwanted cell proliferation. However, in their quest for immortality, cancer cells have found ways to evade apoptosis, allowing them to grow uncontrollably.
Finding ways to make malignant cells die, rather than escape death, holds great promise for new treatments against cancer and other diseases. For example, Sanford-Burnham research has led to a synthetic DNA-based drug, currently in clinical trials, that shuts off an anti-death gene in cancer cells, making them easier to kill with conventional chemotherapy. Numerous other possible therapies are under development. But it all comes down to one question: How do we convince errant cells to do the right thing and die?
Unraveling Apoptosis and Cell Death
Beating Bcl-2 (Reed laboratory)
New Ways to Attack Cancer (Salvesen laboratory)
Reviving Pac Man (Salvesen laboratory)
Apogossypol (Pellecchia laboratory)