Cells. 2021 Feb 21;10(2):458. doi: 10.3390/cells10020458.
Multidrug resistance (MDR) is one of the major clinical challenges in cancer treatment and compromises the effectiveness of conventional anticancer chemotherapeutics. Among known mechanisms of drug resistance, drug efflux via ATP binding cassette (ABC) transporters, namely P-glycoprotein (P-gp) has been characterized as a major mechanism of MDR. The primary function of ABC transporters is to regulate the transport of endogenous and exogenous small molecules across the membrane barrier in various tissues. P-gp and similar efflux pumps are associated with MDR because of their overexpression in many cancer types. One of the intensively studied approaches to overcome this mode of MDR involves development of small molecules to modulate P-gp activity. This strategy improves the sensitivity of cancer cells to anticancer drugs that are otherwise ineffective. Although multiple generations of P-gp inhibitors have been identified to date, reported compounds have demonstrated low clinical efficacy and adverse effects. More recently, natural polyphenols have emerged as a promising class of compounds to address P-gp linked MDR. This review highlights the chemical structure and anticancer activities of selected members of a structurally unique class of 'biaryl' polyphenols. The discussion focuses on the anticancer properties of ellagic acid, ellagic acid derivatives, and schisandrins. Research reports regarding their inherent anticancer activities and their ability to sensitize MDR cell lines towards conventional anticancer drugs are highlighted here. Additionally, a brief discussion about the axial chirality (i.e., atropisomerism) that may be introduced into these natural products for medicinal chemistry studies is also provided.