Drug resistance is one of the most pressing problems in treating cancer patients today. Local and regional disease can usually be adequately treated, but patients eventually die from distant metastases that have become resistant to all available chemotherapy. Although work on cultured tumor cell lines has yielded a lot of information on potential drug resistance mechanisms, it has proven difficult to translate these results to clinical drug resistance in patients. The controversy regarding the contribution of ABC transporters to drug resistance in patients is one example. The study of genetically engineered mouse models (GEMMs), which closely resemble cancer in human patients, can help to bridge this gap. In models for BRCA1- or BRCA2-associated breast cancer, we observed a substantial synergy between the defect in homology-directed DNA repair and sensitivity to DNA-targeting drugs. Nevertheless, tumors are not easily eradicated and eventually drug resistance develops. In this review we will discuss the use of the new generation mouse models to address major clinical problems, such as mechanisms of drug resistance, predicting chemotherapy response or characterizing the nature of residual tumor cells that escape eradication. Moreover, we will address the contribution of ABC transporters to drug resistance in our model.
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