Development of other microtubule-stabilizer families: the epothilones and their derivatives

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Chemotherapy is the mainstay of treatment for numerous cancer types, but resistance to chemotherapy remains a major clinical issue and is one of the driving influences underlying the development of new anticancer medications. One of the most important classes of chemotherapy agents is the taxanes, which target the cytoskeleton and spindle apparatus of tumor cells by binding to the microtubules, thereby disrupting key cellular mechanisms, including mitosis. Taxane resistance, however, limits treatment options and creates a major challenge for clinicians. Ongoing research has identified several newer classes of microtubule-targeting chemotherapies that may retain activity despite clinical resistance to taxanes. Among these classes, the epothilones have been studied most extensively in the clinical setting. Like taxanes, epothilones stabilize microtubulin turnover, and they have properties favoring their development as anticancer agents. The most clinically advanced epothilone analog is ixabepilone, which is currently the only approved epothilone derivative. Ixabepilone is indicated for the treatment of metastatic or locally advanced breast cancer in combination with capecitabine after failure of an anthracycline and a taxane, or as monotherapy after failure of an anthracycline, a taxane, and capecitabine. In phase II and III trials, ixabepilone showed efficacy in several patient subgroups and in various stages of breast cancer. Common adverse reactions include peripheral sensory neuropathy and asthenia. This paper will discuss the preclinical and clinical development of epothilones and their derivatives across a variety of cancer types.

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