Taxanes as radiosensitizers

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In parallel with the discovery of the taxanes, our understanding of the molecular underpinnings that comprise the classic biologic principles of fractionated radiotherapy has rapidly evolved over the past half century. Early studies have implicated DNA as the primary target for radiation-induced lethality. More recently, however, the molecular biology involved in radiosensitization of tumor cells has been unveiled. Specifically, factors associated with DNA damage and cell killing, collectively known as the ‘four Rs’ of radiobiology, including (r)eassortment of tumor cells into the radiosensitive phases of the cell cycle (G2/M), (r)eoxygenation of hypoxic areas within a tumor, (r)epair of sublethal DNA damage, and (r)epopulation of surviving tumor cells, have been elucidated, and upon manipulation of each factor or a combination of factors a significant impact on radiation-associated tumor control probabilities was found. Not only does spatial cooperation have a theoretical benefit in patients with undetectable micrometastatic disease at presentation, but the manipulation of either of the ‘four Rs’ using taxanes provokes further local radiation-associated tumor cell killing with an associated improvement in clinical responses. Numerous studies have shown that taxanes radiosensitize tumor cells directly and/or indirectly by perturbing the tumor microenvironment in a time-dependent and dose-dependent manner. Herein, the impact of taxanes on radiobiological tenets as a mode of radiosensitizing tumor cells and their clinical implications are reviewed.

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