This special issue of Drug Resistance Updates is dedicated to multidrug resistance protein 1 (MDR-1), 35 years after its discovery. While enormous progress has been made and our understanding of drug resistance has become more sophisticated and nuanced, after 35 years the role of MDR-1 in clinical oncology remains a work in progress. Despite clear in vitro evidence that P-glycoprotein (Pgp), encoded by MDR-1, is able to dramatically reduce drug concentrations in cultured cells, and that drug accumulation can be increased by small molecule inhibitors, clinical trials testing this paradigm have mostly failed. Some have argued that it is no longer worthy of study. However, repeated analyses have demonstrated MDR-1 expression in a tumor is a poor prognostic indicator leading some to conclude MDR-1 is a marker of a more aggressive phenotype, rather than a mechanism of drug resistance. In this review we will re-evaluate the MDR-1 story in light of our new understanding of molecular targeted therapy, using breast and lung cancer as examples. In the end we will reconcile the data available and the knowledge gained in support of a thesis that we understand far more than we realize, and that we can use this knowledge to improve future therapies.
Published by Elsevier Ltd.