Purpose: The present study evaluated the cytostatic and apoptotic effects of a 24-hr paclitaxel treatment in ovarian tumors.
Methods: Three-dimensional histocultures of surgical specimens from patients (n = 17) were used. The cytostatic effect was measured by inhibition of 96-hr cumulative DNA precursor incorporation and induction of apoptosis was determined by morphological changes.
Results: Paclitaxel produced partial inhibition of DNA precursor incorporation in about 40% of tumors (maximum inhibition of approximately 30%) and induced apoptosis in about 90% of tumors (maximum apoptotic index of approximately 15%). In responsive tumors, maximum cytostatic and apoptotic effects were achieved at < or = 1 microM with no further enhancement by increasing the drug concentration to 10 microM. In individual tumors, the apoptotic effect inversely correlated with cytostatic effect (r2 = 0.27, p = 0.031), and the maximal apoptotic index correlated with the LI for the untreated controls (r2 = 0.38, p < 0.01). More than 95% of apoptotic cells after paclitaxel treatment were labeled with DNA precursor. The incomplete cytostatic and apoptotic effects of paclitaxel and the link between DNA synthesis and apoptosis in ovarian tumors are similar to our previous findings in other human solid tumors.
Conclusions: These findings suggest that (a) apoptosis is the major paclitaxel effect in advanced ovarian tumors, (b) tumor sensitivity to drug-induced cytostatic effect is opposite to sensitivity to apoptotic effect, (c) paclitaxel-induced apoptosis increases with increased cell proliferation and is completed after DNA synthesis, and (d) further increasing the dose to elevate plasma concentration beyond 1 microM may not improve treatment outcome.