Naunyn Schmiedebergs Arch Pharmacol. 2021 Jul 8. doi: 10.1007/s00210-021-02112-3. Online ahead of print.
Acquired multidrug resistance (MDR) in tumor diseases has repeatedly been associated with overexpression of ATP-binding cassette transporters (ABC-transporters) such as P-glycoprotein. Both in vitro and in vivo data suggest that these efflux transporters can cause MDR, albeit its actual relevance for clinical chemotherapy unresponsiveness remains uncertain. The overexpression can experimentally be achieved by exposure of tumor cells to cytotoxic drugs. For simplification, the drug-mediated transporter overexpression can be attributed to two opposite mechanisms: First, increased transcription of ABC-transporter genes mediated by nuclear receptors sensing the respective compound. Second, Darwinian selection of sub-clones intrinsically overexpressing drug transporters being capable of extruding the respective drug. To date, there is no definite data indicating which mechanism truly applies or whether there are circumstances promoting either mode of action. This review summarizes experimental evidence for both theories, suggests an algorithm discriminating between these two modes, and finally points out future experimental approaches of research to answer this basic question in cancer pharmacology.