Multidrug Resistance: Retrospect and Prospects in Anti-Cancer Drug Treatment
Conventional cancer chemotherapy is seriously limited by the multidrug resistance (MDR) commonly exhibited by tumour cells. One mechanism by which a living cell can achieve multiple resistances is via the active efflux of a broad range of anticancer drugs through the cellular membrane by MDR proteins. Such drugs are exported in both ATP-dependent and -independent manners, and can occur despite considerable concentration gradients. To the ATPdependent group belongs the ATP-binding cassette (ABC) transporter family, which includes P-gp, MRP, BCRP, etc. Another protein related to MDR, though not belonging to the ABC transporter family, is lung resistance-related protein (LRP). All of these proteins are involved in diverse physiological processes, and are responsible for the uptake and efflux of a multitude of substances from cancer cells.
Many inhibitors of MDR transporters have been identified over the years. Firstly, MDR drugs were not specifically developed for inhibiting MDR; in fact, they had other pharmacological properties, as well as a relatively low affinity for MDR transporters. They included compounds of diverse structure and function, such as verapamil and cyclosporine, and caused side effects. Secondly, the new drugs were more inhibitor-specific, in terms of MDR transport, and were designed to reduce such side effects (e.g., R-verapamil, dexniguldipine, etc.). Unfortunately, they displayed poor response in clinical studies. Recently, new compounds obtained from drug development programs conducted by the pharmaceutical industry are characterized by a high affinity to MDR transporters and are efficient at nanomolar concentrations. Some of these compounds (e.g., MS-209) are currently under clinical trials for specific forms of advanced cancers.
We aim to provide an overview of the properties associated with those mammalian MDR transporters known to mediate significant transport of relevant drugs in cancer treatments. We also summarize recent advances concerning resistance to cancer drug therapies with respect to the function and overexpression of ABC and LRP multidrug transporters.
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