Healthy cells have an even balance of apoptosis promoter proteins and anti-apoptosis promoter proteins. However, damaged cells usually possess a higher ratio of apoptosis promoting proteins. This allows for the destruction and degradation of cells that are not functioning properly. Unfortunately, cancer cells do not work this way. The genetic alterations found in cancer cells show an increased production in anti-apoptotic proteins. The result is a damaged cell that is virtually invincible and will continue to divide and produce more identical cells that are damaged. As stated in the article, there are six known anti-apoptotic proteins. The main anti-apoptotic proteins found in cancer are Bcl-1, Bcl-2, and Mcl-1. Currently, cancer treatments include, chemotherapy, radiation, and immuno-therapy. These treatments promote the toxin NOXA in cells, specifically cancer cells, and promote apoptosis of the cell. However, the anti-apoptotic proteins oppose the effects of the toxin and allow the cell to survive. This is observed in patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia who show resistance to chemotherapy.
Based on the results of a study conducted at University of California Riverside scientists should focus on the Bfl-1 protein. This protein is more abundant in humans particularly. According to Maurizio Pellecchia, this protein is the main protein in humans and not Mcl-1. Mcl-1 predominates in mice.
This article is very interesting because if scientists can figure out a way to completely inhibit the anti-apoptotic proteins in cancer cells it would be a great treatment. The cancer cells would have no choice but to self-destruct. Furthermore, the healthy cells would be unaffected by the cancer treatments. Other forms of cancer treatment, such as chemotherapy and radiation, destroy healthy cells as well as cancer cells. When cancer cells are targeted, the healthy cells will be unchanged.