Insights into mechanisms of cisplatin resistance and potential for its clinical reversal

Pharmacotherapy. Jan-Feb 1996;16(1):16-39.


Cisplatin in combination with other cytotoxic agents is the backbone for a potential cure of testicular germ cell neoplasms and is a critical factor in the substantial activity observed in the treatment of small cell lung cancer, bladder cancer, and ovarian germ cell tumors. Resistance to cisplatin at the onset of treatment or at relapse limits its curative potential, however. Laboratory studies using both cells selected for cisplatin resistance by exposure to sublethal concentrations and biopsy specimens from patients' tumors provide insights for the potential mechanisms of resistance. The mechanisms identified in vitro include a complex and wide array of related and unrelated pathways such as alterations in cellular drug transport, enhanced DNA repair dependent and independent of signal transduction pathways, and enhanced intracellular detoxification such as glutathione and metallothionein systems. Studies of these mechanisms have identified a number of agents with known potential for administration to humans and that reverse cisplatin resistance in vitro; for example, reversal of cellular accumulation defects by dipyridamole; inhibition of DNA repair by hydroxyurea, pentoxifylline, and novobiocin; inhibition of the glutathione system by ethacrynic acid and buthionine sulfoximine; and inhibition of signal transduction pathways by cyclosporine, tamoxifen, and calcium channel-blocking agents. Current phase I clinical trials are focusing on the most effective doses and schedules to administer these agents in combination with cisplatin. Initial uncontrolled trials in limited numbers of patients suggest that the addition of modulators of cisplatin has the potential to reverse resistance in patients previously failing therapy. Another promising avenue for circumventing cisplatin resistance is the development of noncross-resistant platinum analogs.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacokinetics*
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology
  • Biological Transport, Active
  • Cisplatin / pharmacokinetics*
  • Cisplatin / pharmacology
  • DNA Repair
  • DNA, Neoplasm / drug effects
  • Drug Resistance, Neoplasm
  • Gene Expression / drug effects
  • Glutathione / biosynthesis
  • Glutathione Transferase / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Glutathione Transferase / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Hyperthermia, Induced
  • Metallothionein / metabolism
  • Metallothionein / physiology
  • Signal Transduction


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • DNA, Neoplasm
  • Metallothionein
  • Glutathione Transferase
  • Glutathione
  • Cisplatin