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Taxanes in cancer treatment: Activity, chemoresistance and its overcoming

Since 1984, when paclitaxel was approved by the FDA for the treatment of advanced ovarian carcinoma, taxanes have been widely used as microtubule-targeting antitumor agents. However, their historic classification as antimitotics does not describe all their functions. Indeed, taxanes act in a complex manner, altering multiple cellular oncogenic processes including mitosis, angiogenesis, apoptosis, inflammatory response, and ROS production. On the one hand, identification of the diverse effects of taxanes on oncogenic signaling pathways provides opportunities to apply these cytotoxic drugs in a more rational manner. On the other hand, this may facilitate the development of novel treatment modalities to surmount anticancer drug resistance. In the latter respect, chemoresistance remains a major impediment which limits the efficacy of antitumor chemotherapy. Taxanes have shown impact on key molecular mechanisms including disruption of mitotic spindle, mitosis slippage and inhibition of angiogenesis. Furthermore, there is an emerging contribution of cellular processes including autophagy, oxidative stress, epigenetic alterations and microRNAs deregulation to the acquisition of taxane resistance. Hence, these two lines of findings are currently promoting a more rational and efficacious taxane application as well as development of novel molecular strategies to enhance the efficacy of taxane-based cancer treatment while overcoming drug resistance.This review provides a general and comprehensive picture on the use of taxanes in cancer treatment. In particular, we describe the history of application of taxanes in anticancer therapeutics, the synthesis of the different drugs belonging to this class of cytotoxic compounds, their features and the differences between them. We further dissect the molecular mechanisms of action of taxanes and the molecular basis underlying the onset of taxane resistance. We further delineate the possible modalities to overcome chemoresistance to taxanes, such as increasing drug solubility, delivery and pharmacokinetics, overcoming microtubule alterations or mitotic slippage, inhibiting drug efflux pumps or drug metabolism, targeting redox metabolism, immune response, and other cellular functions.

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