Resistance to cytotoxic drugs is a serious drawback in the treatment of patient with tumours, both of the haemopoietic and non-haemopoietic origin. The cytotoxic effect of drugs on the malignant cells manifests as the process of apoptosis. In the resistant malignant cells, apoptosis becomes prevented by several mechanisms. The multidrug resistance (MDR) is one of the principal mechanisms when the cancer cells develop resistance to multiple chemically and functionally unrelated cytotoxic compounds. The decrease of the cytotoxic drug concentration at the molecular target site may come from activation of some efflux membrane systems participating in the transport of cytotoxic drugs out of the cell (e.g. Pgp, MDR, and LRP). Another mechanism of resistance is the increased enzymatic detoxification on the drug by glutathion-S-transferase system. Changes in the molecular target of the cytotoxic drug such as topoisomerase molecule can be also responsible for the resistance. At least two additional mechanisms of resistance of tumour cells were identified. Resistance can come from either deregulation of proapoptotic mechanisms in tumour cells or by increased activity of reparation processes which control the damaged molecule of DNA. Several methods that detect the cause of resistance in distinct cell populations have been developed. The great effort is now focused on both the detection of mechanisms of the resistance and on the clinical procedures of overcoming the resistance to cytotoxic drugs.
multidrug resistance, apoptosis, efflux systems, topoisomerase, cell cycle, DNA reparation, flow cytometry