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Apoptosis and cancer: the genesis of a research field

Abstract

In multicellular organisms, the total number of cells is a balance between the cell-generating effects of mitosis and cell death that is induced through apoptosis. A disruption of this delicate balance can lead to the development of cancer. This Timeline article focuses on how the field of apoptosis biology has developed in the context of its contribution to our understanding of cell death, or lack of it, in the development of malignant disease. It traces the course of research from key discoveries in fundamental biology to potential therapeutic applications.

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Figure 1: The pathway from DNA damage to cancer.
Figure 2: Controlling cytochrome c release.
Figure 3: Signalling pathways in apoptosis.

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Acknowledgements

Being asked to write this Timeline article is a privilege and in no way reflects my contribution to the field compared with the many giants who have made groundbreaking advances over the past several decades. Trying to get the balance right between the fundamental biology of apoptosis and how it has contributed to our understanding of cancer has not been easy in a limited space. I regret not being able to cite all the major contributions to this field, and to those colleagues whose work I should have cited, but inadvertently did not, I humbly apologize.

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Cotter, T. Apoptosis and cancer: the genesis of a research field. Nat Rev Cancer 9, 501–507 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1038/nrc2663

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