Clusterin and Chemoresistance

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Resistance to anticancer agents is one of the primary impediments to effective cancer therapy. Chemoresistance occurs not only to clinically established therapeutic agents but also to novel targeted therapeutics. Both intrinsic and acquired mechanisms have been implicated in drug resistance but it remains controversial which mechanisms are responsible that lead to failure of therapy in cancer patients. Recent focus has turned to clusterin (CLU) as a key contributor to chemoresistance to anticancer agents. Its role has been documented in prostate cancer for paclitaxel/docetaxel resistance as well as in renal, breast, and lung tumor cells. Moreover, it is abnormally upregulated in numerous advanced stage and metastatic cancers spanning prostate, renal, bladder, breast, head and neck, colon, cervical, pancreatic, lung carcinomas, melanoma, and lymphoma. It is noteworthy that only the cytoplasmic/secretory clusterin form (sCLU), and not the nuclear form, is expressed in aggressive late stage tumors, which is in line with its antiapoptotic function. Most significantly, sCLU expression is documented to lead to broad-based resistance to other unrelated chemotherapeutic agents such as doxorubicin, cisplatin, etoposide, and camphothecin. Resistance to targeted death-inducing molecules, tumor necrosis factor, Fas and TRAIL, or histone deacetylase inhibitors can also be mediated by sCLU. Expression of sCLU may be an adaptive response to genotoxic and oxidative stresses but this adaptive response could pose a threat in malignant cells being treated with cytotoxic agents by enhancing their survival potential. The actual mechanisms for sCLU induction are unclear but STAT1 is required for its constitutive upregulation in docetaxel-resistant tumor cells. Known as a protein chaperone, sCLU appears to stabilize Ku70/Bax complexes, sequestering Bax from its ability to induce mitochondrial release of cytochrome c that triggers cell apoptosis. Thus, sCLU has a key role in preventing apoptosis induced by cytotoxic agents and has the potential to be targeted for cancer therapy.

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