Levels of multidrug resistance (MDR1) P-glycoprotein expression by human breast cancer correlate with in vitro resistance to taxol and doxorubicin

E Mechetner, A Kyshtoobayeva, S Zonis, H Kim, R Stroup, R Garcia, R J Parker, J P Fruehauf
Clinical Cancer Research 1998, 4 (2): 389-98
To determine whether multidrug resistance (MDR1) P-glycoprotein (Pgp) expression correlated with clinical MDR1-related drug resistance, we established a protocol for quantitative measurement of Pgp expression and in vitro drug resistance in doxorubicin resistant MCF7 breast cancer cell lines and 359 freshly resected specimens of breast carcinoma. Pgp expression was detected with 4E3, UIC2, and JSB-1 monoclonal antibodies using flow cytometry and immunohistochemistry (IHC). Pgp function was determined using PSC833 in a drug resistance-reversal assay and with a three-dimensional agarose-based extreme drug resistance assay. MCF7 calibrator cell lines expressed Pgp, which was functional and in proportion to the degree of drug resistance. Flow cytometry, UIC2 shift assays, IHC scores, and determination of absorbance products by image analysis were all highly correlated (r > 0.9). Overall Pgp expression increased from 11% in untreated patients to 30% in patients who had previously received chemotherapy. Compared with Pgp-negative tumors, a significant increase in doxorubicin and Taxol resistance was seen for breast cancers that expressed Pgp, regardless of prior treatment. A strong correlation between the degree of Pgp expression and in vitro resistance to Taxol and doxorubicin (but not to 5-fluorouracil) was found when either IHC scores or image analysis-based methods were used to quantify Pgp expression (n = 185, P < 0.0001). The degree of Pgp expression strongly correlated with the degree of drug resistance in the clinical specimens studied. These data suggest that (a) Pgp contributes to clinical MDR1-related drug resistance, and (b) both intrinsic and acquired expression of Pgp in breast cancer may contribute in part to therapeutic failure and relapse.

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