Special Reviews

A Matter of Life and Cell Death

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Science  28 Aug 1998:
Vol. 281, Issue 5381, pp. 1317-1322
DOI: 10.1126/science.281.5381.1317

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Abstract

In multicellular organisms, mutations in somatic cells affecting critical genes that regulate cell proliferation and survival cause fatal cancers. Repair of the damage is one obvious option, although the relative inconsequence of individual cells in metazoans means that it is often a “safer” strategy to ablate the offending cell. Not surprisingly, corruption of the machinery that senses or implements DNA damage greatly predisposes to cancer. Nonetheless, even when oncogenic mutations do occur, there exist potent mechanisms that limit the expansion of affected cells by suppressing their proliferation or triggering their suicide. Growing understanding of these innate mechanisms is suggesting novel therapeutic strategies for cancer.

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