ABC transporters in multi-drug resistance and ADME-Tox of small molecule tyrosine kinase inhibitors

Pharm Res. 2014 Sep;31(9):2237-55. doi: 10.1007/s11095-014-1389-0. Epub 2014 May 20.


The past decade has seen tremendous efforts in the research and development of new chemotherapeutic drugs using target-based approaches. These efforts have led to the discovery of small molecule tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs). Following the initial approval of imatinib by the US FDA in 2001, more than 15 TKIs targeting different tyrosine kinases have been approved, and numerous others are in various phases of clinical evaluation. Unlike conventional chemotherapy that can cause non-discriminating damage to both normal and cancerous cells, TKIs attack cancer-specific targets and therefore have a more favorable safety profile. However, although TKIs have had outstanding success in cancer therapy, there has been increasing evidence of resistance to TKIs. The enhanced efflux of TKIs by ATP-binding cassette (ABC) transporters over-expressed in cancer cells has been found to be one such important resistance mechanism. Another major drawback of TKI therapies that has been increasingly recognized is the extensive inter-individual pharmacokinetic variability, in which ABC transporters seem to play a major role as well. This review covers recent findings on the interactions of small molecule TKIs with ABC transporters. The effects of ABC transporters on anticancer efficacy and the absorption, distribution, metabolism, excretion, and toxicity (ADME-Tox) of the small molecule TKIs are summarized in detail. Since TKIs have been found to not only serve as substrates of ABC transporters, but also as modulators of these proteins via inhibition or induction, their influence upon ABC transporters and potential role on TKI-drug interactions are discussed as well.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • ATP-Binding Cassette Transporters / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / metabolism
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacokinetics
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Drug Resistance, Multiple
  • Drug Resistance, Neoplasm*
  • Humans
  • Molecular Targeted Therapy
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Neoplasms / enzymology
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors / metabolism
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors / pharmacokinetics
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors / pharmacology*
  • Protein-Tyrosine Kinases / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Small Molecule Libraries / metabolism
  • Small Molecule Libraries / pharmacokinetics
  • Small Molecule Libraries / pharmacology


  • ATP-Binding Cassette Transporters
  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors
  • Small Molecule Libraries
  • Protein-Tyrosine Kinases