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Tau: At The Interface Between Neurodegeneration And Cancer?

Stéphanie Papin, Paolo Paganetti

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For its microtubule-binding properties, the expression level of the neurodegeneration-associated protein Tau is pondered as a potential modifier of cancer resistance to chemotherapy since decades. Indeed, Tau binds microtubules at the same site as taxanes, a class of chemotherapeutic drugs designed to stabilize the microtubule network in order to stall cell division and to induce tumor cell death. Whilst independent studies report the association between low Tau expression and superior taxane response, the data were refused by a meta-analysis, suggesting interference of other parameters. Unpredictably, Tau expression level was identified as a prognostic cancer marker, whereby its positive or negative predictive value for survival depended on the cancer type. With recent experimental evidence linking Tau to P53 signaling, DNA stability and protection and to the implication of Tau in cancer is strengthened. The identification of a role of Tau at the interface between two major aging-related disorder families, neurodegeneration and cancer, offers clues for the epidemiological observation inversely correlating these disorders. Elucidating how Tau is mechanistically implicated in cellular pathways common to these devastating illnesses may extend the Tau-targeting therapeutic opportunities to cancer.