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Sci Rep. 2013;3:1949. doi: 10.1038/srep01949.

Defined lipid analogues induce transient channels to facilitate drug-membrane traversal and circumvent cancer therapy resistance.

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  • 1The Netherlands Cancer Institute, Antoni van Leeuwenhoek Hospital, Divisions of Biological Stress Responses, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.


Design and efficacy of bioactive drugs is restricted by their (in)ability to traverse cellular membranes. Therapy resistance, a major cause of ineffective cancer treatment, is frequently due to suboptimal intracellular accumulation of the drug. We report a molecular mechanism that promotes trans-membrane movement of a stereotypical, widely used anti-cancer agent to counteract resistance. Well-defined lipid analogues adapt to the amphiphilic drug doxorubicin, when co-inserted into the cell membrane, and assemble a transient channel that rapidly facilitates the translocation of the drug onto the intracellular membrane leaflet. Molecular dynamic simulations unveiled the structure and dynamics of membrane channel assembly. We demonstrate that this principle successfully addresses multi-drug resistance of genetically engineered mouse breast cancer models. Our results illuminate the role of the plasma membrane in restricting the efficacy of established therapies and drug resistance - and provide a mechanism to overcome ineffectiveness of existing and candidate drugs.

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