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Methods Mol Biol. 2010;596:47-76. doi: 10.1007/978-1-60761-416-6_4.

Mechanisms of multidrug resistance in cancer.

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Laboratory of Cell Biology, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD, USA.


The development of multidrug resistance (MDR) to chemotherapy remains a major challenge in the treatment of cancer. Resistance exists against every effective anticancer drug and can develop by numerous mechanisms including decreased drug uptake, increased drug efflux, activation of detoxifying systems, activation of DNA repair mechanisms, evasion of drug-induced apoptosis, etc. In the first part of this chapter, we briefly summarize the current knowledge on individual cellular mechanisms responsible for MDR, with a special emphasis on ATP-binding cassette transporters, perhaps the main theme of this textbook. Although extensive work has been done to characterize MDR mechanisms in vitro, the translation of this knowledge to the clinic has not been crowned with success. Therefore, identifying genes and mechanisms critical to the development of MDR in vivo and establishing a reliable method for analyzing clinical samples could help to predict the development of resistance and lead to treatments designed to circumvent it. Our thoughts about translational research needed to achieve significant progress in the understanding of this complex phenomenon are therefore discussed in a third section. The pleotropic response of cancer cells to chemotherapy is summarized in a concluding diagram.

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