The epothilones are a novel class of non-taxane microtubule-stabilizing agents obtained from the fermentation of the cellulose degrading myxobacteria, Sorangium cellulosum. Preclinical studies have shown that the epothilones are more potent than the taxanes and active in some taxane-resistant models. Similar to paclitaxel and other taxanes, the epothilones block cells in mitosis, resulting in cell death. The chief components of the fermentation process are epothilones A and B, with epothilones C and D found in smaller amounts. Trace amounts of other epothilones have also been detected. Pre-clinical studies have shown that epothilone B is the most active form, exhibiting significantly higher antitumor activity than paclitaxel and docetaxel. Several phase I and phase II clinical trials are ongoing with epothilone B and BMS 247550, an epothilone B analog. Preliminary reports indicate these agents are active against human cancers in heavily pretreated patients. The epothilones appear to be well tolerated, with a side effect profile that is similar to that reported with the taxanes. This article will review some basic aspects of epothilone chemistry and biology, and pre-clinical and preliminary clinical experience with epothilone B and its analog, BMS 247550.
Keywords: epothilones, microtubule-stabilizing agents, sorangium cellulosum, clinical experience, hypersensitivity reactions
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