Mechanism of taxane neurotoxicity

Breast Cancer. 2004;11(1):82-5. doi: 10.1007/BF02968008.


The two taxanes (paclitaxel and docetaxel) are widely employed in standard antineoplastic practice. Although these agents are now well established, some toxic side effects have been reported. Toxicity of these agents includes bone marrow suppression (principally neutropenia), hypersensitivity reactions, cutaneous reactions, edema and neurotoxicity. The most prominent neurotoxicity is a sensory neuropathy. Controlling neuropathy is crucial for maintaining the quality of life of patients because it is usually persistent and hard to manage. The precise mechanism for taxane-induced neuropathy is still unknown. The taxanes are known to promote aggregation of intracellular microtubules. Abnormal aggregation of microtubules in the neuronal cells may cause this neuropathy. In addition, the taxanes have been suggested to have intrinsic toxicity and directly injure the cells. A better understanding of the mechanism for this neuropathy may improve the quality of life of patients who undergo taxane antineoplastic therapy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Neurotoxicity Syndromes / etiology
  • Neurotoxicity Syndromes / physiopathology*
  • Taxoids / adverse effects*


  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic
  • Taxoids