Exploiting poly(I: C) to induce cancer cell apoptosis

Francesca Bianchi, Samantha Pretto, Elda Tagliabue, Andrea Balsari, Lucia Sfondrini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


TLR3 belong to the Toll-like receptors family, it is mainly expressed on immune cells where it senses pathogen-associated molecular patterns and initiates innate immune response. TLR3 agonist poly(I:C) was developed to mimic pathogens infection and boost immune system activation to promote anti-cancer therapy. Accordingly, TLR agonists were included in the National Cancer Institute list of immunotherapeutic agents with the highest potential to cure cancer. Besides well known effects on immune cells, poly(I:C) was also shown, in experimental models, to directly induce apoptosis in cancer cells expressing TLR3. This review presents the current knowledge on the mechanism of poly(I:C)-induced apoptosis in cancer cells. Experimental evidences on positive or negative regulators of TLR3-mediated apoptosis induced by poly(I:C) are reported and strategies are proposed to successfully promote this event in cancer cells. Cancer cells apoptosis is an additional arm offered by poly(I:C), besides activation of immune system, for the treatment of various type of cancer. A further dissection of TLR3 signaling would contribute to greater resolution of the critical steps that impede full exploitation of the poly(I:C)-induced apoptosis. Experimental evidences about negative regulator of poly(I:C)-induced apoptotic program should be considered in combinations with TLR3 agonists in clinical trials.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)747-756
Number of pages10
JournalCancer Biology and Therapy
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Oct 3 2017



  • apoptosis
  • cancer
  • double-stranded RNA (dsRNA)
  • immune cells
  • poly(I:C)
  • TLR agonist
  • Toll-like receptor 3 (TLR3)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Oncology
  • Pharmacology
  • Cancer Research

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