Arsenic, a naturally-occurring toxic element, and a traditionally-used drug, has received a
great deal of attention worldwide due to its curative anti-cancer properties in patients with acute
promyelocytic leukemia. Among the arsenicals, arsenic trioxide has been most widely used as an
anti-cancer drug. Recent advances in cancer therapeutics have led to a paradigm shift away from traditional
cytotoxic drugs towards the targeting of proteins closely associated with driving the cancer
phenotype. Due to the diverse anti-cancer effects of ATO on different types of malignancies, numerous
studies have made efforts to uncover the mechanisms of ATO-induced tumor suppression. From
in vitro cellular models to studies in clinical settings, ATO has been extensively studied. The outcomes
of these studies have opened doors to establishing improved molecular-targeted therapies for
cancer treatment. The efficacy of ATO has been augmented by combination with other drugs. In this
review, we discuss recent arsenic-based cancer therapies and summarize the novel underlying molecular
mechanisms of the anti-cancer effects of ATO.
Keywords: Arsenic, anti-cancer drug, chemotherapy, apoptosis, reactive oxygen species, acute promyelocytic leukemia.
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