Apoptosis is a metazoan process of controlled cell elimination that plays critical roles in embryonic development and adult tissue homeostasis. Apoptosis dysregulation contributes to several important diseases, including cancer. Two distinct yet interconnected signaling pathways control apoptosis by activating a core intracellular machinery of death proteases called caspases. The intrinsic apoptotic pathway engages caspases via members of the BCL-2 protein family and the mitochondria in reaction to severe cellular damage or stress. The extrinsic pathway activates caspases via cell-surface death receptors, which respond to cognate death ligands expressed on immune-effector cells. Tumor cells can acquire various apoptosis-evasion mechanisms; nevertheless, the transformed state of these cells makes them uniquely susceptible to apoptosis reactivation if resistance is circumvented. Molecular approaches to reengage the apoptotic pathways in cancer have been underway for over two decades. Gratifyingly, BCL-2 antagonists — which drive the intrinsic pathway — are beginning to bear clinical fruit. In contrast, clinical attempts to stimulate the extrinsic pathway with proapoptotic receptor agonists (PARAs) have been disappointing, despite compelling preclinical efficacy with this class of agents. Here, I discuss some of the possible reasons for this translational discrepancy and suggest strategies to overcome it with the next generation of PARAs.
Guidelines: The Editorial Board will only consider letters that we deem relevant and of interest to our readers. We will not post data that have not been subjected to peer review, nor will we post letters that are essentially a reiteration of another letter. All accepted letters will be posted on our website within one week of acceptance. We reserve the right to edit any letter for length, content, and clarity. Authors of all accepted letters will be asked to preview any changes. Authors will be notified by e-mail if their letters were not accepted. As this is a final decision, no appeals will be considered.
Specific requirements: All letters must be 400 words or fewer. You may enter the letter as plain text or HTML. The author's name and e-mail address are required, and will be posted with the letter. All possible conflicts of interest must be noted, even if they are not posted. If you wish to include a figure (keep in mind that non-peer-reviewed data will not be posted), please contact the editors directly at email@example.com.