Evasion from apoptosis is an important hallmark of cancer cells. Alterations of apoptosis pathways are especially critical as they confer resistance to conventional anti-cancer therapeutics, e.g., chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and targeted therapeutics. Thus, successful induction of apoptosis using novel therapeutics may be a key strategy for preventing recurrence and metastasis. Inhibitors of anti-apoptotic molecules and enhancers of pro-apoptotic molecules are being actively developed for hematologic malignancies and solid tumors in particular over the last decade. However, due to the complicated apoptosis process caused by a multifaceted connection with cross-talk pathways, protein–protein interaction, and diverse resistance mechanisms, drug development within the category has been extremely challenging. Careful design and development of clinical trials incorporating predictive biomarkers along with novel apoptosis-inducing agents based on rational combination strategies are needed to ensure the successful development of these molecules. Here, we review the landscape of currently available direct apoptosis-targeting agents in clinical development for cancer treatment and update the related biomarker advancement to detect and validate the efficacy of apoptosis-targeted therapies, along with strategies to combine them with other agents.
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