Multiple Drug Resistance in Cancer Revisited: The Cancer Stem Cell Hypothesis
The failure to eradicate cancer may be as fundamental as a misidentification of the target. Current therapies succeed at eliminating bulky disease but often miss a tumor reservoir that is the source of disease recurrence and metastasis. Recent advances in the understanding of tissue development and repair cause us to revisit the process of drug resistance as it applies to oncogenesis and tumor heterogeneity. The cancer stem cell hypothesis states that the cancer-initiating cell is a transformed tissue stem cell, which retains the essential property of self-protection through the activity of multiple drug resistance (MDR) transporters. This resting constitutively drug-resistant cell remains at low frequency among a heterogeneous tumor mass. In the context of this hypothesis, the authors review the discovery of MDR transporters in cancer and normal stem cells and the failure of MDR reversal agents to increase the therapeutic index of substrate antineoplastic agents.
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