Cell death plays an important role in cancer growth and progression, as well as in the efficiency of chemotherapy. Although apoptosis is commonly regarded as the principal mechanism of programmed cell death, it has been increasingly reported that several anticancer agents do not only induce apoptosis but other forms of cell death such as necrosis, autophagy and mitotic catastrophe, as well as the state of permanent loss of proliferative capacity known as senescence. A deeper understanding of what we know about chemotherapyinduced death is rather relevant considering the emerging knowledge of non-apoptotic cell death signaling pathways, and the fact that many tumors have the apoptosis pathway seriously compromised. In this review we examine the effects that various anti-cancer agents have on pathways involved in the different cell death outcomes. Novel and specific anti-cancer agents directed toward members of the cell death signaling pathways are being developed and currently being tested in clinical trials. If we precisely activate or inhibit molecules that mediate the diversity of cell death outcomes, we might succeed in more effective and less toxic chemotherapy.
Keywords: Apoptosis, Autophagy, Chemotherapy, Mitotic catastrophe, Necrosis, Senescence, Cell death, Bax and Bak oligomerization, mitochondrial membrane potential, gastrointestinal stromal tumors
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