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Clin Cancer Res. 2004 Oct 15;10(20):7031-42.

Targeting mammalian target of rapamycin synergistically enhances chemotherapy-induced cytotoxicity in breast cancer cells.

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  • 1Department of Surgical Oncology, The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas 77030-4009, USA.



The serine-threonine kinase mammalian target of rapamycin has emerged as a potential target for cancer therapy. Rapamycin and rapamycin analogs are undergoing clinical trials and have induced clinical responses in a subgroup of patients. Rapamycin has also been reported to enhance the efficacy of several cytotoxic agents. The aim of this study was to determine the nature of the interactions between rapamycin and chemotherapeutic agents used as first- and second-line agents against breast cancer.


We performed a multiple drug effect/combination index isobologram analysis in cells sensitive and resistant to rapamycin alone in vitro, and we evaluated the in vivo efficacy of combination therapy in a rapamycin-sensitive model.


In vitro, synergistic interactions were observed in combinations with paclitaxel, carboplatin, and vinorelbine. Additive effects were observed in combinations with doxorubicin and gemcitabine. Rapamycin dramatically enhanced paclitaxel- and carboplatin-induced apoptosis. This effect was sequence dependent and mediated at least partly through caspase activation. Furthermore, rapamycin enhanced chemosensitivity to paclitaxel and carboplatin in HER2/neu-overexpressing cells, suggesting a potential approach to these poorly behaving tumors. Cell lines that are resistant to the growth-inhibitory effect of rapamycin were also resistant to rapamycin-mediated chemosensitization. In vivo, rapamycin combined with paclitaxel resulted in a significant reduction in tumor volume compared with either agent alone in rapamycin-sensitive tumors.


Rapamycin potentiates the cytotoxicity of selected chemotherapeutic agents in cell lines sensitive to the effects of rapamycin due to aberrations in the phosphatidylinositol 3'-kinase/Akt pathway, suggesting that combination therapy may be effective in patients selected for aberrations in this pathway.

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