Docetaxel is a new semi-synthetic anticancer agent derived from bacatin III of the needles of the European yew Taxus baccata. Docetaxel has a novel mechanism of action since it binds to tubulin inducing its polymerization and promoting stable microtubule formation. Several differences exist between docetaxel and paclitaxel: (i) broader activity of docetaxel against freshly explanted human tumors than paclitaxel; (ii) a 2- fold higher affinity than paclitaxel (iii) 2.5-fold more potent than paclitaxel as an inhibitor of cell replication and (iv) docetaxel acts at the S-phase whereas paclitaxel at the G2 / M phases of the cell cycle. Preclinical and phase II studies revealed that docetaxel is active against NSCLC. In chemotherapy-naïve patients with NSCLC response rates ranged from 19% to 54% with a median duration of survival ranging from 6.3 months to 11 months, and 1-year survival ranging from 21% to 71%. Docetaxel as single agent provided a survival as well as a clinical benefit over BSC in untreated patients with NSCLC. Docetaxel has been efficiently combined with cisplatin (ORR 33%-46%), carboplatin (ORR 30%-48%), vinorelbine (ORR 20%-51%), gemcitabine (ORR 37%-47%), with a median survival ranging from 5-14 months. A preliminary analysis of a multicenter randomized trial comparing docetaxel / CDDP with docetaxel / gemcitabine revealed that the two regimens had comparable activity in terms, of response rates, duration of response, TTP and overall survival; however, the docetaxel / gemcitabine combination has a most favourable toxicity profile compared to docetaxel / CDDP. Docetaxel has also demonstrated radiosensitizing properties and encouraging results have been achieved in combination with irradiation. Finally, docetaxel has shown an important activity in previously-treated patients with NSCLC with ORR ranging from 16% to 25% with a median survival ranging from 7.2 months to 10.5 months. Randomized trials revealed that second-line docetaxel confers a survival benefit over either BSC or ifosfamide / vinorelbine in pretreated patients with NSCLC.
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