The role of ABC transporters in ovarian cancer progression and chemoresistance

Crit Rev Oncol Hematol. 2015 Nov;96(2):220-56. doi: 10.1016/j.critrevonc.2015.05.012. Epub 2015 May 27.


Over 80% of ovarian cancer patients develop chemoresistance which results in a lethal course of the disease. A well-established cause of chemoresistance involves the family of ATP-binding cassette transporters, or ABC transporters that transport a wide range of substrates including metabolic products, nutrients, lipids, and drugs across extra- and intra-cellular membranes. Expressions of various ABC transporters, shown to reduce the intracellular accumulation of chemotherapy drugs, are increased following chemotherapy and impact on ovarian cancer survival. Although clinical trials to date using ABC transporter inhibitors have been disappointing, ABC transporter inhibition remains an attractive potential adjuvant to chemotherapy. A greater understanding of their physiological functions and role in ovarian cancer chemoresistance will be important for the development of more effective targeted therapies. This article will review the role of the ABC transporter family in ovarian cancer progression and chemoresistance as well as the clinical attempts used to date to reverse chemoresistance.

Keywords: ABC transporter; Chemoresistance; Clinical trials; Multi-drug resistance; Ovarian cancer; Prognosis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • ATP-Binding Cassette Transporters / metabolism*
  • Disease Progression
  • Drug Resistance, Multiple / physiology
  • Drug Resistance, Neoplasm / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / metabolism*


  • ATP-Binding Cassette Transporters