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Topoisomerases, New Targets in Cancer Chemotherapy

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The enzymes involved in the regulation of the three-dimensional structure of DNA, topoisomerase I and II, are important for the handling of DNA during vital cellular processes such as translation, transcription and mitosis. The enzymes are currently being studied intensively, they are being biochemically characterized and their mechanism of action is now better understood.

Empirically discovered antitumor drugs appear to interfere with these enzymes, especially topoisomerase II. The DNA-topoisomerase II complex, which is an intermediate in the normal enzyme pathway, is stabilized by the drug and forms a ‘cleavable complex’, which appears to be cytotoxic. The drugs involved are, e.g. anthra-cyclines, epipodophyllotoxins and acridines. The central role of this enzyme offers the cell an opportunity for the development of resistance by down-regulation of this enzyme or the production of resistant mutants, provided the adaptation does not hamper other vital cell functions.

Knowledge of the working mechanism and the cellular regulation of the topoisomerases might lead to the selection of most effective drugs and treatment schedules, and to circumvention of drug resistance.

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Zijlstra, J.G., DE Jong, S., DE Vries, E.G.E. et al. Topoisomerases, New Targets in Cancer Chemotherapy. Med. Oncolo. & Tumor Pharmacother. 7, 11–18 (1990). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF03000485

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Key words

  • Topoisomerase
  • Drug resistance