Cancer chemotherapy is the principal approach for urogenital cancers. However, the acquisition of resistance to anticancer agents is a critical factor that limits the successful treatment of malignancies. The multidrug resistant (MDR) phenotype has been widely recognized in cancer chemotherapy in urogenital tumors and the mechanisms underlying MDR have also been extensively studied. One of the principle mechanisms in MDR is caused by the overexpression of P-glycoprotein (P-gp), encoded by the multidrug resistance gene (MDR1). It functions as an ATP-dependent active efflux pump of chemotherapeutic agents in human cancer cells. Recently, other drug resistance proteins, including multidrug resistance-associated protein (MRP1) and cMOAT (or MRP2), were also identified from multidrug resistant cells. A functional analysis of MRP1 has shown that MRP1 may have the potential to act as a transporter of glutathione conjugates, which has been known as a central detoxification pathway in anticancer agents. Furthermore, several other resistance-related proteins (e.g. glutathione S-transferase, metallothionein, thioredoxin, topoisomerase I, II, O6-alkylguanine-DNA methyltransferase, etc.) have been found to be up- or down-regulated in resistant cells and these molecules are believed to contribute to the resistant phenotype as well. Based on the molecular characteristics identified in MDR, several experimental and clinical approaches have been studied to overcome MDR. One of these strategies is to reverse MDR by using such P-gp inhibitors as verapamil and cyclosporine A. In this review, we summarize the recent advances in MDR-related molecules and clinical trials to circumvent MDR in urogenital carcinomas.
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