The role of ceramide in the cellular response to cytotoxic agents

Curr Opin Oncol. 1998 Nov;10(6):552-9. doi: 10.1097/00001622-199811000-00013.


The sphingolipid messenger ceramide has been implicated in the initiation of apoptotic cell death in a variety of physiologic settings. Recent investigation has shown that ceramide-dependent stress signaling is associated with chemotherapy-related apoptosis. It is not entirely clear, however, whether drug-mediated generation of ceramide is essential for execution of the cell death program, or simply represents a component of the genotoxic stress response. For example, there is evidence that ceramide subserves an important role in certain stresses (e.g., ionizing radiation, daunorubicin) but represents a secondary process in others (e.g., cytarabine). The review presents evidence for and against a cytotoxic effector function for ceramide in the lethal actions of conventional antineoplastic agents.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology
  • Apoptosis / drug effects
  • Apoptosis / physiology*
  • Ceramides / pharmacology
  • Ceramides / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Receptors, Tumor Necrosis Factor / drug effects
  • Receptors, Tumor Necrosis Factor / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction
  • fas Receptor / drug effects
  • fas Receptor / metabolism


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Ceramides
  • Receptors, Tumor Necrosis Factor
  • fas Receptor