Skip to main content

How does Venclexta work?

Medically reviewed by Carmen Pope, BPharm. Last updated on Feb 6, 2023.

Official answer


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.


Related medical questions

Drug information

Related support groups