Multidrug resistance (MDR) in model systems is known to be conferred by two different integral proteins--the 170-kDa P-glycoprotein (P-gp) and the 190-kDa multidrug resistance-associated protein (MRP1)--that pump drugs out of MDR cells. The intracellular level of a drug, which influences the drug's cytotoxic effect, is a function of the amount of drug transported inside the cell (influx) and the amount of drug expelled from the cell (efflux). One possible pharmacological approach to overcoming drug resistance is the use of specific inhibitors that enhance the cytotoxicity of known antineoplastic agents. Many compounds have been proven to be very efficient in inhibiting P-gp activity, but only some of them can inhibit MRP1. However, the clinical results obtained so far by this approach have been rather disappointing. The other likely approach is based on the design and synthesis of new non-cross-resistant drugs whose physicochemical properties favor the uptake of such drug by resistant cells. Our recent studies have shown that whereas the P-gp- and MRP1-mediated efflux of different anthracycline-based drugs may not differ considerably, their kinetics of uptake do. Thus, the high uptake of drug by cells may lead to concentrations at the cellular target site high enough to achieve the needed cytotoxicity against MDR cells. Therefore, increased drug lipophilicity might be one factor in improving drug cytotoxicity in MDR cells. In vitro studies have shown that idarubicin, an analogue of daunorub cin, is more effective than daunorubicin and doxorubicin against MDR tumor cell lines and that this increased effectiveness is related in part to the increased lipophilicity of idarubicin. Other studies have also confirmed the strong impact of lipophilicity on the uptake and retention of anthracyclines in MDR cells.
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