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J Mol Med (Berl). 2002 Mar;80(3):137-46. Epub 2001 Nov 7.

Apoptosis and chemoresistance in transgenic cancer models.

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Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine, Department of Hematology/Oncology, Charité/Campus and Virchow-Hospital, Humboldt University, Augustenburger Platz 1, 13353 Berlin, Germany.


Multidrug resistance remains an unresolved problem in clinical oncology. Over a decade ago genes encoding cellular efflux pumps were shown to confer resistance to a broad spectrum of biochemically unrelated anticancer drugs even before the compounds reached their intracellular targets. More recently it has become apparent that many drugs induce a common apoptotic program, such that mutations in this program can also produce multidrug resistance. However, a thorough evaluation of the contribution of apoptotic defects to this "postdamage" drug resistant phenotype is technically complicated, and this has led to uncertainty about the overall significance of apoptosis in therapy-induced cell death. For example, correlative analyses using patient specimens are limited by unknown background mutations in the biopsy material, and assays using cancer cell lines can be biased by unphysiological conditions. We sought to circumvent these restrictions by utilizing a tractable transgenic cancer model to examine the impact of apoptosis on treatment outcome. Here we discuss potential caveats of cell culture based assays, highlight features of genetically engineered mice as potential model systems, and describe a tractable transgenic mouse model to study drug responses in a series of primary lymphomas with genetically defined lesions treated at their natural site.

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