Therapeutic strategies to overcome taxane resistance in cancer

Tuyelee Das, Uttpal Anand, Swaroop Kumar Pandey, Charles R. Ashby, Yehuda G. Assaraf, Zhe Sheng Chen, Abhijit Dey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


One of the primary causes of attenuated or loss of efficacy of cancer chemotherapy is the emergence of multidrug resistance (MDR). Numerous studies have been published regarding potential approaches to reverse resistance to taxanes, including paclitaxel (PTX) and docetaxel, which represent one of the most important classes of anticancer drugs. Since 1984, following the FDA approval of paclitaxel for the treatment of advanced ovarian carcinoma, taxanes have been extensively used as drugs that target tumor microtubules. Taxanes, have been shown to affect an array of oncogenic signaling pathways and have potent cytotoxic efficacy. However, the clinical success of these drugs has been restricted by the emergence of cancer cell resistance, primarily caused by the overexpression of MDR efflux transporters or by microtubule alterations. In vitro and in vivo studies indicate that the mechanisms underlying the resistance to PTX and docetaxel are primarily due to alterations in α-tubulin and β-tubulin. Moreover, resistance to PTX and docetaxel results from: 1) alterations in microtubule-protein interactions, including microtubule-associated protein 4, stathmin, centriole, cilia, spindle-associated protein, and kinesins; 2) alterations in the expression and activity of multidrug efflux transporters of the ABC superfamily including P-glycoprotein (P-gp/ABCB1); 3) overexpression of anti-apoptotic proteins or inhibition of apoptotic proteins and tumor-suppressor proteins, as well as 4) modulation of signal transduction pathways associated with the activity of several cytokines, chemokines and transcription factors. In this review, we discuss the abovementioned molecular mechanisms and their role in mediating cancer chemoresistance to PTX and docetaxel. We provide a detailed analysis of both in vitro and in vivo experimental data and describe the application of these findings to therapeutic practice. The current review also discusses the efficacy of different pharmacological modulations to achieve reversal of PTX resistance. The therapeutic roles of several novel compounds, as well as herbal formulations, are also discussed. Among them, many structural derivatives had efficacy against the MDR phenotype by either suppressing MDR or increasing the cytotoxic efficacy compared to the parental drugs, or both. Natural products functioning as MDR chemosensitizers offer novel treatment strategies in patients with chemoresistant cancers by attenuating MDR and increasing chemotherapy efficacy. We broadly discuss the roles of inhibitors of P-gp and other efflux pumps, in the reversal of PTX and docetaxel resistance in cancer cells and the significance of using a nanomedicine delivery system in this context. Thus, a better understanding of the molecular mechanisms mediating the reversal of drug resistance, combined with drug efficacy and the application of target-based inhibition or specific drug delivery, could signal a new era in modern medicine that would limit the pathological consequences of MDR in cancer patients.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100754
JournalDrug Resistance Updates
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2021


  • Anticancer drugs
  • Apoptotic proteins
  • Cancer
  • Docetaxel
  • Microtubule disruptors
  • Multidrug resistance (MDR)
  • Nano-delivery systems
  • Natural products
  • Paclitaxel (PTX)
  • Taxanes
  • Tumor-suppressor proteins

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Pharmacology
  • Cancer Research
  • Infectious Diseases
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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