Vinflunine: a new vision that may translate into antiangiogenic and antimetastatic activity

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Microtubules and tubulin are major dynamic and structural cellular components that play a key role in several cell functions, including division, signalling and intracellular trafficking. Normal epithelial cells have a highly structured, rigid cytoskeletal network that is compatible with cell motility. Thus, tubulin and microtubules are compelling cellular targets for chemotherapy. In fact, among anticancer agents, those that target microtubules constitute one of the most effective classes of chemotherapeutics in cancer. The list of compounds that target either tubulin or microtubules is extensive and consists of chemically unique compounds that bind to the tubulin dimers and destabilize microtubules (Vinca alkaloids) and those that bind to the microtubule polymer and stabilize microtubules (taxanes). Tumour-induced angiogenesis, the formation of new capillaries from existing blood vessels, and epithelial–mesenchymal transition are two steps that are critical for both tumour growth and metastatic spread. Three possible mechanisms of action are described with vinflunine, the new-generation Vinca alkaloid to arrive in clinical practice are as follows: it acts against tubulin and microtubules, disrupts newly formed blood vessels and seems to be able to reduce the metastatic process as shown in preclinical studies. These findings support the hypothesis that vinflunine, by blocking microtubule functions that contribute to cell shape, polarization, migration and other processes, might be responsible not only for tumour-cytostatic but also for specific antiangiogenic or antiepithelial–mesenchymal transition effects.

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