Advanced malignant melanoma has a poor prognosis since chemotherapy is mostly ineffective due in part to the intrinsic and/or extrinsic resistance of melanoma cells to systemic treatment with anti-neoplastic agents. The reasons for the chemoresistant phenotype are unknown. The relevance of well-analyzed drug-resistance mechanisms, e.g., intracellular/extracellular transport and induction of certain enzyme systems, is reviewed. Most anti-cancer drugs kill susceptible cells through induction of apoptosis. Therefore, it appears that differences in the apoptotic pathways which lead to apoptotic deficiency may account for the ability of some tumor cells to resist drug therapy. Human melanomas, which are characteristically drug-resistant, are more likely to have altered apoptotic pathways and fewer pro-apoptotic molecules. Tumor cells with these characteristics are seldom sensitive to drugs. The complexity of the molecular variants involved in signal transduction along apoptotic pathways suggests that the cell may have a variety of possibilities for regulating apoptosis and generating apoptotic deficiency. Thus, apoptosis and apoptotic deficiency should be analyzed to better clarify the mechanisms of melanoma resistance.
Copyright 2001 Wiley-Liss, Inc.