Lack of correlation between mitotic arrest or apoptosis and antitumor effect of docetaxel

Cancer Chemother Pharmacol. 1999;43(2):165-72. doi: 10.1007/s002800050879.


Purpose: To determine, as we did for paclit-axel, whether mitotic arrest and apoptosis induced in murine tumors in vivo by docetaxel correlate with the drug's antitumor effect and whether the antitumor efficacy of docetaxel depends on p53 mutational status of tumors.

Methods: C3Hf/Kam mice were implanted with one of the following 15 syngeneic tumors: seven adenocarcinomas (MCa-4, MCa-29, MCa-35, MCa-K, OCa-I, ACa-SG, and HCa-I), two squamous cell carcinomas (SCC-IV and SCC-VII), five sarcomas (FSa, FSa-II, Sa-NH, NFSa, and Sa-4020) and one lymphoma (Ly-TH). When the tumors had grown to 8 mm in diameter, the mice were treated with 31.3 mg/kg docetaxel i.v. Tumor growth delay was the endpoint of docetaxel's antitumor effect. In separate groups of mice, mitotic arrest and apoptosis were determined micromorphometrically 1 to 72 h after docetaxel treatment. Tumors were assayed for their p53 status by sequence analysis of RNA prepared from freshly excised tumors.

Results: Docetaxel caused statistically significant growth delay in six of seven adenocarcinomas, three of five sarcomas, and the lymphoma, but not in either of the squamous cell carcinomas. The drug induced mitotic arrest in all tumor types, but to various degrees ranging from 6.4+/-0.4% to 25.1+/-0.1%. In contrast, docetaxel induced appreciable apoptosis in only 5 of 15 tumors, with 10.3+/-1.6% being the highest apoptotic value. Neither mitotic arrest nor apoptosis were significantly correlated with tumor growth delay. However, tumors that responded to docetaxel by significant tumor growth delay histologically displayed massive cell destruction by cell lysis, and four of these tumors also showed marked infiltration with mononuclear lymphoid cells. Of the 15 tumors only 3 had mutant p53.

Conclusions: Docetaxel exhibited a strong antitumor effect in two-thirds of murine tumors, and on a milligram per kilogram basis was more effective than paclitaxel against the same tumors. The drug was a potent inducer of mitotic arrest but a weak inducer of apoptosis, neither of which correlated with its antitumor effect. Tumor cell lysis appeared to be a major mode of tumor cell destruction and can be regarded as the main mechanism underlying antitumor efficacy of docetaxel. In contrast, paclitaxel's antitumor efficacy is related to its ability to induce apoptosis. At the molecular level, there was no dependency of antitumor efficacy of docetaxel on p53 mutational status of tumors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic / pharmacology*
  • Apoptosis / drug effects*
  • Docetaxel
  • Genes, p53
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred Strains
  • Mitosis / drug effects*
  • Mutation
  • Neoplasms, Experimental / drug therapy
  • Neoplasms, Experimental / genetics
  • Neoplasms, Experimental / pathology
  • Paclitaxel / analogs & derivatives*
  • Paclitaxel / pharmacology
  • Specific Pathogen-Free Organisms
  • Taxoids*


  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic
  • Taxoids
  • Docetaxel
  • Paclitaxel