Paclitaxel is a microtubule stabilizing drug that causes dividing cells to arrest and then undergo apoptosis. It also has antiangiogenic activity because it alters cytoskeletal structure, affecting migration and invasion. Paclitaxel is an effective treatment for AIDS-related Kaposi's sarcoma (KS). KS is a tumor in which there is marked proliferation of endothelial cells in addition to the tumor cells, which themselves share many markers with activated (proliferating) endothelial cells. We sought to determine the mechanism by which paclitaxel exerts its anti-KS tumor effects. In vitro, KS cells are very sensitive to paclitaxel, with half-maximal growth inhibition observed at 0.8 nM. Inhibition of migration of KS cells was also observed at nanomolar concentrations of the drug. Paclitaxel induced cell cycle arrest with an accumulation of cells in sub-G1. This was accompanied in vitro by various events typical of apoptosis: phosphorylation of two anti-apoptotic proteins Bcl-2 and Bcl-x(L), release of cytochrome c into the cytoplasm, cleavage and activation of caspase-3. In vitro results were borne out by studies of KS tumor xenografts in nude mice. Paclitaxel (10 mg/kg) inhibited tumor growth by 75% over 21 days. Histological examination of the tumors revealed a decrease in proliferative index, a decrease in the number of mitotic figures and an increase in apoptotic cells compared to tumors from untreated mice.
- Kaposi's sarcoma
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