Docetaxel, a semisynthetic taxane, has exhibited significant single-agent activity against prostatic tumors. In phase I/II studies, single-agent docetaxel and the combination of docetaxel plus estramustine were effective in inducing prostate-specific antigen reductions of > or =50% in men with androgen-independent prostate cancer (AIPC). The underlying reason for docetaxel's clinical activity against prostate cancer has been a focus of ongoing research. Docetaxel is believed to have a twofold mechanism of antineoplastic activity: (1) inhibition of microtubular depolymerization, and (2) attenuation of the effects of bcl-2 and bcl-xL gene expression. Taxane-induced microtubule stabilization arrests cells in the G(2)M phase of the cell cycle and induces bcl-2 phosphorylation, thereby promoting a cascade of events that ultimately leads to apoptotic cell death. In preclinical studies, docetaxel had a higher affinity for tubulin and was shown to be a more potent inducer of bcl-2 phosphorylation than paclitaxel. Laboratory evidence also supports the clinical evaluation of docetaxel-based combinations that include agents such as trastuzumab and/or estramustine. The pathways for docetaxel-induced apoptosis appear to differ in androgen-dependent and androgen-independent prostate cancer cells. Further elucidation of these differences will be instrumental in designing targeted regimens for the treatment of localized and advanced prostate cancer.
Copyright 2001 by W.B. Saunders Company.