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Cancer Res. 2004 Oct 15;64(20):7562-9.

Fluoxetine inhibits multidrug resistance extrusion pumps and enhances responses to chemotherapy in syngeneic and in human xenograft mouse tumor models.

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Department of Biochemistry, the George S. Wise Life Science Faculty, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv, Israel.


Multidrug resistance (MDR) operated by extrusion pumps such as P-glycoprotein and multidrug-resistance-associated-proteins, is a major reason for poor responses and failures in cancer chemotherapy. MDR modulators (chemosensitizers) were found among drugs approved for noncancer indications and their derivatives. Yet toxicity, adverse effects, and poor solubility at doses required for MDR reversal prevent their clinical application. Among newly designed chemosensitizers, some still suffer from toxicity and adverse effects, whereas others progressed to clinical trials. Diversities among tumors and among MDR pumps indicate a need for several clinically approved MDR modulators. Here we report for the first time that fluoxetine (Prozac), the well-known antidepressant, is a highly effective chemosensitizer. In vitro, fluoxetine enhanced (10- to 100-fold) cytotoxicity of anticancer drugs (doxorubicin, mitomycin C, vinblastine, and paclitaxel) in drug-resistant but not in drug-sensitive cells (5 and 3 lines, respectively). Fluoxetine increased drug accumulation within MDR-cells and inhibited drug efflux from those cells. In vivo, fluoxetine enhanced doxorubicin accumulation within tumors (12-fold) with unaltered pharmacokinetics. In four resistant mouse tumor models of both syngeneic and human xenograft, combination treatment of fluoxetine and doxorubicin generated substantial (P < 0.001) improvements in tumor responses and in survivals (2- to 3-fold). Moreover, fluoxetine reversed MDR at doses that are well below its human safety limits, free of the severe dose-related toxicity, adverse effects, and poor solubility that are obstacles to other chemosensitizers. This low-dose range, together with the findings reported here, indicate that fluoxetine has a high potential to join the arsenal of MDR reversal agents that may reach the clinic.

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