Featuring Demian Dressler, DVM and Susan Ettinger, DVM, Dip. ACVIM (Oncology), authors of The Dog Cancer Survival Guide

Apoptosis Defined

Apoptosis: Apoptosis is the completely natural body process that causes cells to destroy themselves at the end of their natural lifespan. Also known as “programmed cell death” or “cell suicide,” apoptosis can also be triggered when a cell sustains irreparable damage, becomes infected, or starts dividing uncontrollably. In an average healthy human adult, somewhere around fifty to seventy billion cells die each day due to apoptosis and then quietly exit the body to make room for new, healthy cells. In most types of cancer, apoptosis genes “turn off,” which leads to lower apoptosis levels. When this happens, cancer cells do not die naturally. Diminished apoptosis is a hallmark of most types of cancer, and is one of the major ways for a tumor to expand. Forcing cancer cells to commit suicide, via apoptosis, is one of the central goals in Full Spectrum cancer care. Although many people pronounce this word “ay-POP-toe-sis,” the most correct pronunciation features a silent second p: “ay-po-TOE-sis.” Substances that turn on apoptosis are called apoptogens.

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