Chemotherapeutic drugs and mitochondrial dysfunction: Focus on doxorubicin, trastuzumab, and sunitinib

Stefania Gorini, Antonella De Angelis, Liberato Berrino, Natalia Malara, Giuseppe Rosano, Elisabetta Ferraro

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Many cancer therapies produce toxic side effects whose molecular mechanisms await full elucidation. The most feared and studied side effect of chemotherapeutic drugs is cardiotoxicity. Also, skeletal muscle physiology impairment has been recorded after many chemotherapeutical treatments. However, only doxorubicin has been extensively studied for its side effects on skeletal muscle. Chemotherapeutic-induced adverse side effects are, in many cases, mediated by mitochondrial damage. In particular, trastuzumab and sunitinib toxicity is mainly associated with mitochondria impairment and is mostly reversible. Vice versa, doxorubicin-induced toxicity not only includes mitochondria damage but can also lead to a more robust and extensive cell injury which is often irreversible and lethal. Drugs interfering with mitochondrial functionality determine the depletion of ATP reservoirs and lead to subsequent reversible contractile dysfunction. Mitochondrial damage includes the impairment of the respiratory chain and the loss of mitochondrial membrane potential with subsequent disruption of cellular energetic. In a context of increased stress, AMPK has a key role in maintaining energy homeostasis, and inhibition of the AMPK pathway is one of the proposed mechanisms possibly mediating mitochondrial toxicity due to chemotherapeutics. Therapies targeting and protecting cell metabolism and energy management might be useful tools in protecting muscular tissues against the toxicity induced by chemotherapeutic drugs.

Original languageEnglish
Article number7582730
Number of pages15
JournalOxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Ageing
  • Cell Biology


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