Taxanes, microtubules and chemoresistant breast cancer

Biochim Biophys Acta. 2008 Apr;1785(2):96-132. doi: 10.1016/j.bbcan.2007.10.004. Epub 2007 Nov 12.


The taxanes, paclitaxel and docetaxel are microtubule-stabilizing agents that function primarily by interfering with spindle microtubule dynamics causing cell cycle arrest and apoptosis. However, the mechanisms underlying their action have yet to be fully elucidated. These agents have become widely recognized as active chemotherapeutic agents in the treatment of metastatic breast cancer and early-stage breast cancer with benefits gained in terms of overall survival (OS) and disease-free survival (DFS). However, even with response to taxane treatment the time to progression (TTP) is relatively short, prolonging life for a matter of months, with studies showing that patients treated with taxanes eventually relapse. This review focuses on chemoresistance to taxane treatment particularly in relation to the spindle assembly checkpoint (SAC) and dysfunctional regulation of apoptotic signaling. Since spindle microtubules are the primary drug targets for taxanes, important SAC proteins such as MAD2, BUBR1, Synuclein-gamma and Aurora A have emerged as potentially important predictive markers of taxane resistance, as have specific checkpoint proteins such as BRCA1. Moreover, overexpression of the drug efflux pump MDR-1/P-gp, altered expression of microtubule-associated proteins (MAPs) including tau, stathmin and MAP4 may help to identify those patients who are most at risk of recurrence and those patients most likely to benefit from taxane treatment.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antimitotic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Apoptosis
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / analysis
  • Breast Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Drug Resistance, Neoplasm*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Microtubules / drug effects*
  • Models, Biological
  • Models, Molecular
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local
  • Spindle Apparatus
  • Taxoids / therapeutic use*
  • Tubulin / metabolism
  • Vinca Alkaloids / therapeutic use


  • Antimitotic Agents
  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Taxoids
  • Tubulin
  • Vinca Alkaloids