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Cancer Res. 1994 Aug 15;54(16):4313-20.

Glutathione-associated enzymes in anticancer drug resistance.

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  • 1Department of Pharmacology, Fox Chase Cancer Center, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19111.


The importance of thiol-mediated detoxification of anticancer drugs that produce toxic electrophiles has been of considerable interest to many investigators. Glutathione and glutathione S-transferases (GST) are the focus of much attention in characterizing drug resistant cells. However, ambiguous and sometimes conflicting data have complicated the field. This article attempts to clarify some of the confusion. The following observations are well established: (a) tumors express high levels of GST, especially GST psi, although the isozyme components vary quite markedly between tissues and the isozymes are inducible; (b) nitrogen mustards are good substrates for the GST alpha family of isozymes which are frequently overexpressed in cells with acquired resistance to these drugs; (c) most drugs of the multidrug-resistant phenotype have not been shown to be GST substrates and although GST psi is frequently overexpressed in multidrug-resistant cells, most indications are that this is an accompaniment to, rather than a cause of, the resistant phenotype; (d) transfection of GST complementary DNAs has produced some lines with increased resistance to alkylating agents. Most studies of the relationships between GST and resistance have overlooked the potential importance of other enzymes involved in the maintenance of cellular glutathione homeostasis, and this has complicated data interpretation. Translational research aimed at applying our knowledge of glutathione pathways has produced preclinical and clinical testing of some glutathione and GST inhibitors, with some encouraging preliminary results. In brief, GSTs are important determinants of drug response for some, not all, anticancer drugs. Caution should be encouraged in assessing cause/effect relationships between GST overexpression and resistance mechanisms.

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