Cell biological markers of drug resistance in ovarian carcinoma

Gynecol Oncol. 1995 Aug;58(2):165-78. doi: 10.1006/gyno.1995.1205.


The aim of the study is to review the mechanisms of resistance to four classes of drugs that are widely used in ovarian carcinoma: platinum (cisplatin/carboplatin) compounds, classical alkylating agents (cyclophosphamide/melphalan), natural drugs (doxorubicin), and "new drugs" (taxol and taxotere). Both platinum and classical alkylating agents mediate their cytotoxicity by the formation of drug-DNA adducts, resulting in DNA damage. Therefore, drug resistance mechanisms are (in part) comparable. In ovarian carcinoma cell lines increased repair of DNA damage and increased detoxification by binding of drugs to glutathione, possibly catalyzed by glutathione S-transferases, have been identified as the most prominent resistance mechanisms to these drugs. Studies on the role of DNA repair mechanisms and glutathione in human ovarian carcinoma are hampered by the complexity of enzyme systems involved in DNA repair and intratumor heterogeneity for glutathione. Resistance to doxorubicin appears to be mediated by enhanced efflux from the cell by increased expression of membrane glycoproteins acting as a drug efflux pump, such as P-glycoprotein. Resistance to doxorubicin can also be due to quantitative and/or qualitative changes in the nuclear target of doxorubicin, topisomerase (Topo) II. Finally, resistance to taxol may be mediated by enhanced expression of P-glycoprotein, while presumed other mechanisms such as alterations in tubulin structure, the cellular "target" of taxol, and changes in polymerization of tubulin are still largely unresolved. Several ways to modulate the reviewed resistance mechanisms are also described. In conclusion, this review shows that many cell biological factors may be involved in drug resistance. The relevance of the identification of most of these factors in ovarian carcinoma patients however remains to be established.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alkylating Agents / pharmacology
  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / analysis*
  • Doxorubicin / pharmacology
  • Drug Resistance
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Organoplatinum Compounds / pharmacology
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Paclitaxel / pharmacology


  • Alkylating Agents
  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Organoplatinum Compounds
  • Doxorubicin
  • Paclitaxel