Drug resistance is a serious limitation to the effective treatment of a number of common malignancies. Thirty years of laboratory and clinical research have greatly defined the molecular alterations underlying many drug resistance processes in cancer. Based on this knowledge, strategies to overcome the impact of resistance and increase the efficacy of cancer treatment have been translated from laboratory models to clinical trials. This article reviews laboratory and, in particular, clinical attempts at drug resistance circumvention from early forays in the inhibition of cellular efflux pumpmediated drug resistance through to more selective circumvention agent strategies and into inhibition of the other important mechanisms which can allow cancer cells to survive therapy, such as apoptosis resistance. Despite some promising results to date, resistance inhibition strategies have largely failed due to poor understanding of the pharmacology, dynamics and complexity of the resistance phenotype. With the realisation that new molecularly-targeted agents can also be rendered ineffectual by the actions of resistance mechanisms, a major focus is once again emerging on identifying new strategies/pharmaceuticals which can augment the activity of the arsenal of more conventional cytotoxics and newer targeted anti-cancer drugs. Future tactical directions where old and new resistance strategies may merge to overcome this challenge are discussed.
Keywords: Resistance, resistance pharmacology, MDR, circumvention, apoptosis, pharmacokinetic resistance, pharmacodynamic resistance
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