Gastrointestinal (GI) cancers are major health problems, being the most common cancers worldwide. Resistance to apoptosis is closely linked to carcinogenesis and enables malignant cells to evade therapy-induced cell death. In the recent past, the increasing understanding of molecular pathways of apoptosis has provided novel targets in cancer therapy. Several drugs, either inhibiting antiapoptotic signalling or actively inducing apoptosis in cancer cells, have already entered clinical trials. Until now, agents targeting apoptosis pathways are primarily being tested alone or in combination with chemotherapy. In the near future, personalised combination therapies will probaby be beneficial for patients with GI cancer. In this review, the current knowledge on defects in apoptosis signalling in GI cancer is summarised and the focus is on the potential clinical efficacy of apoptosis targeting agents.
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▸ Competing interests: Declared (the declaration can be viewed on the Gut website at http://www.gut.bmj.com/supplemental).
Funding: HSB, JS and PRG are supported by grants from the German Research Foundation (DFG). MM is supported by the German Cancer Aid and Hector Foundation, Germany.
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