Reducing tumor load by therapeutic induction of cell death in the transformed phenotype is the desirable goal of most chemotherapeutic regimens. Despite the tremendous strides made in our understanding of mechanisms that endow tumor cells with the ability to evade execution signals, development of chemo-resistance is still a major obstacle in the successful management of the disease. A host of factors have been implicated in the acquisition of the resistant phenotype, such as activation of drug efflux pumps , overexpression of proteins that inhibit cell death [2-4], absence of critical members of the death circuitry [5, 6], and selective loss of cell cycle checkpoints . Consequently, it is now well established that the process of carcinogenesis is not only a result of an increase in cells proliferative capacity, but a product of increased proliferation and defective or diminished cell death signaling. To that end, one of the critical determinants of cellular response to exogenous stimuli is the cellular redox status. Intracellular generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) is tightly regulated by the intrinsic anti-oxidant defense systems. Despite the conventional dogma that ROS are harmful to the cell, experimental evidence over the last decade or so bear witness to the fact that ROS also play an important role as signaling molecules in diverse physiological processes. Indeed, low levels of intracellular ROS have been linked to cellular proliferation and cell cycle progression, which provides an explanation for the pro-oxidant state invariably associated with the transformed phenotype. Coupled to that are recent observations implicating pro-oxidant intracellular milieu in tumor cells resistance to cell death signals delivered through the cell surface receptor or upon exposure to chemotherapeutic drugs. These studies provide convincing evidence to support a direct or indirect role for intracellular superoxide anion in creating an intracellular milieu nonpermissive for cell death execution. Thus a novel approach to enhancing tumor cell sensitivity to chemotherapy-induced cell death would be to favourably tailor the cytosolic milieu to allow efficient apoptotic execution. Here we present a brief discussion on the role of ROS in cell growth and differentiation, and more specifically address the issue of chemoresistance from the standpoint of cellular redox status.
Keywords: drug resistance-serendipity, tumor load, drug efflux pumps, reactive oxygen species