Instead of targeting tumor cell death, we are focusing on inducing cell differentiation. By convincing malignant cells to stop proliferating, we are encouraging them to return to do their work as a specific cell type.
Common cancer therapies take advantage of the uncontrolled proliferation of the cancer cells and kill these cells by targeting the cell division machinery. These therapies are effective, but affect healthy cells as well, particularly those with a high rate of cell turnover, inducing undesirable side effects.
Differentiation therapy does not target cell death, so healthy cells within the patient will not be compromised as it happens with common therapies like chemotherapeutic drugs or gamma irradiation.
Differentiation therapy induces the cancer cells into the pathway of terminal differentiation and eventual senescence. It acts not only against cancer cells but interestingly can turn cancer stem cells (undifferentiated cells) towards completely differentiated (i.e. normal) cells.