DECOY RECEPTORS: Genentech's Avi Ashkenazi suspects that using ligands to bind to decoy receptors present in healthy cells, but not in cancer cells, could trigger apoptosis in tumors.
Scientists studying signal transduction have spent the past several years piecing together the cell's apoptotic machinery-the complex signaling mechanisms that tell damaged cells to commit suicide. The discovery of more signaling proteins and their receptors has given biotechnology companies potential tools to fix this machinery when it goes awry. The investment community has followed this search for drugs with interest because successful apoptotic agents could treat diseases like cancer with more specificity and fewer side effects. The apoptotic engine acts as a regulatory mechanism by allowing healthy cells to proliferate while encouraging damaged cells to kill themselves (R. Lewis, The Scientist, 9[3]:15, Feb. 6, 1995). Tumor cells proliferate when that engine fails to operate. Potential methods of repair include...

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