Breast cancer: Muscarinic receptors as new targets for tumor therapy

World J Clin Oncol. 2021 Jun 24;12(6):404-428. doi: 10.5306/wjco.v12.i6.404.


The development of breast cancer is a complex process that involves the participation of different factors. Several authors have demonstrated the overexpression of muscarinic acetylcholine receptors (mAChRs) in different tumor tissues and their role in the modulation of tumor biology, positioning them as therapeutic targets in cancer. The conventional treatment for breast cancer involves surgery, radiotherapy, and/or chemotherapy. The latter presents disadvantages such as limited specificity, the appearance of resistance to treatment and other side effects. To prevent these side effects, several schedules of drug administration, like metronomic therapy, have been developed. Metronomic therapy is a type of chemotherapy in which one or more drugs are administered at low concentrations repetitively. Recently, two chemotherapeutic agents usually used to treat breast cancer have been considered able to activate mAChRs. The combination of low concentrations of these chemotherapeutic agents with muscarinic agonists could be a useful option to be applied in breast cancer treatment, since this combination not only reduces tumor cell survival without affecting normal cells, but also decreases pathological neo-angiogenesis, the expression of drug extrusion proteins and the cancer stem cell fraction. In this review, we focus on the previous evidences that have positioned mAChRs as relevant therapeutic targets in breast cancer and analyze the effects of administering muscarinic agonists in combination with conventional chemotherapeutic agents in a metronomic schedule.

Keywords: Breast cancer; Drug combination; Drug resistance; Drug therapy; Metronomic therapy; Muscarinic receptors.

Publication types

  • Review