Role of the tumor microenvironment in mediating de novo resistance to drugs and physiological mediators of cell death

Oncogene. 2003 Oct 20;22(47):7396-402. doi: 10.1038/sj.onc.1206943.


The emergence of clinical drug resistance continues to be an obstacle for the successful treatment of cancer. Our current understanding of mechanisms associated with drug resistance has been ascertained by investigating drug-resistant models created by exposing a parental population to increasing concentrations of a cytotoxic. These unicellular drug-resistant models have been critical in elucidating drug-resistant mechanism and in some cases have aided in the identification of drug targets. However, these models do not address resistance mechanisms that contribute to de novo drug resistance. We propose that specific niches within the tumor microenvironment may provide a sanctuary for subpopulations of tumors cells that affords a survival advantage following initial drug exposure and may facilitate the acquisition of acquired drug resistance. More specifically, we propose that the bone marrow microenvironment is a sanctuary for hema-topoietic cancers. This review will focus on the bone marrow microenvironment and its role in conferring resistance to cytotoxics and physiological mediators of cell death.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Apoptosis / drug effects*
  • Cell Adhesion
  • DNA Damage / drug effects
  • Drug Resistance, Neoplasm*
  • Humans
  • Integrins / metabolism
  • Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Signal Transduction


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Integrins