Throughout time, cancer has been proven to be the most puzzling disease for scientists and physicians to figure out. Again and again, cancer has been found to be almost unstoppable as it spreads rapidly throughout the body. However, apoptosis, otherwise known as cell suicide, might just be the answer.
So what exactly is apoptosis and how does it relate to cancer? Apoptosis is the cell destroying itself. Apoptosis naturally occurs in the cell cycle process. Cancer cells are cells with abnormal growths that are harmful to other cells and spread throughout the body. The cells that die in cancer do not receive the proper signals to do so, therefore, disrupting the natural cycle, bringing on one of the most dreaded diseases. Apoptosis is naturally apart of the cell cycle, and when apoptosis is activated in healthy cells, this is what can cause cancer in the first place.
Although apoptosis is what can cause cancer, it can also be the solution that gets rid of cancer all together. Target apoptosis is a way of using cell suicide to the body’s advantage and potentially curing cancer by killing off the cancer cells. In order to terminate the cancer, you must have control over the cancerous cells and tumors. According to the International Journal of Molecular Sciences, using a cell’s own methods against it is a highly effective process when discussing killing off cancerous cells within the body. Oncologists are now working on ways to incorporate the use of target apoptosis against cells and are acknowledging this type of therapy in current and future cancer research.
About two years ago, BCL-2 proteins were discovered, this is a protein family that blocks the programmed cell growth, which is important to get rid of damaged cells. Some cancer cells have figured out a way around this process, these specific cancer cells will spread and make more cells that spread and seem to be indestructible because of their way of going around the BCL-2 proteins. Some cancers are dependent on BCL-2, this led to the idea of inhibiting this protein, making it more difficult for cancer cells to survive. The BCL-2 protein family consists of both pro-apoptotic and anti-apoptotic proteins, balancing cell survival and cell death. In the occurrence of a shift imbalance favoring anti-apoptosis or cell survival, an uncontrolled growth of malignant cells arise. The drug Venetoclax helps to inhibit the BCL-2, and will help the cells undergo apoptosis. Venetoclax has been known to increase a patient’s rate of survival significantly in comparison to other treatments and BCL-2 inhibitors.
Cancer is an extremely difficult disease to figure out, there may never be a single true cure for every different type of cancer for every different type of patient. However, with research on inhibitions of BCL-2 protein families and the idea of turning apoptosis against a cell, we might just be that much closer to finding the cure. The possibility of making vaccines with inhibitors could become as common as the flu shot. The process of cell death could soon become the clear process of killing off all cancer cells.