How does Venclexta work?
Medically reviewed by N. France, BPharm. Last updated on Feb 16, 2021.
Venclexta (venetoclax) is a small molecule inhibitor of BCL-2 (B-cell lymphoma-2) that is used to treat certain patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), small lymphocytic lymphoma (SLL) and acute myeloid leukemia (AML).
What is BCL-2?
BCL-2 is a protein that helps determine whether cells live or die. It’s called an anti-apoptotic protein because it blocks apoptosis. Apoptosis is a process that causes cell death. Apoptosis is a process used by the body to get rid of unnecessary or abnormal cells.
Vencelxta works by inhibiting BCL-2
Vencelxta’s mechanism of action is to bind directly to the BCL-2 protein. When Vencelxta binds to BCL-2 it displaces other proteins, such as BIM, which help to activate the process of apoptosis leading to programmed cell death.
Cancer cells such as CLL, SLL and AML overexpress BCL-2, which is to say they have more of it than normal cells do. This overexpression of BCL-2 makes these types of blood cancer resistance to chemotherapy. By blocking or inhibiting BCL-2, Vencelxta enables these cells to be killed.
Although Vencelxta helps to treat cancer, it is not a chemotherapy drug. Vencelxta is a tablet that is taken for a period of 12 or about 24 months depending on the other cancer treatments it is used with.
- Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Venclexta. Available from: https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2020/208573s023lbl.pdf. [Accessed February 16, 2021].
- National Cancer Institute (NCI). NCI Dictionary of Cancer Terms. BCL2. Available from: https://www.cancer.gov/publications/dictionaries/cancer-terms/def/bcl2. [Accessed February 16, 2021].
- Bose P, Gandhi V, Konopleva M. Pathways and mechanisms of venetoclax resistance. Leuk Lymphoma. 2017;58(9):1-17. doi:10.1080/10428194.2017.1283032.
- Venclexta. Learn How Venclexta Works. Available from: https://www.venclexta.com/previously-untreated-cll/why-venclexta/how-it-works. [Accessed February 16, 2021].
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