Until recently, most research efforts aimed at developing anti-cancer tools were focusing on small molecules. Alternative compounds are now being increasingly assessed for their potential anti-cancer properties, including peptides and their derivatives. One earlier limitation to the use of peptides was their limited capacity to cross membranes but this limitation was alleviated with the characterization of cell-permeable sequences. Additionally, means are designed to target peptides to malignant cells. Most anti-cancer peptidic compounds induce apoptosis of tumor cells by modulating the activity of Bcl-2 family members that control the release of death factors from the mitochondria or by inhibiting negative regulators of caspases, the proteases that mediate the apoptotic response in cells. Some of these peptides have been shown to inhibit the growth of tumors in mouse models. Hopefully, pro-apoptotic anti-tumor peptides will soon be tested for their efficacy in patients with cancers.
Keywords: Apoptosis, Bcl-2, cancer, cell-permeable peptides, IAPs, peptides, RasGAP, Smac, anti-cancer tools, cell-permeable sequences, release of death factors, mitochondria, caspases, efficacy
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