Multiple drug resistance and intermediate filaments

Anne E. Cress, William S. Dalton

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


One major obstacle to the successful treatment of epithelial derived tumors, such as breast and prostate carcinoma, is the presence of a multiple drug resistance phenotype. The drug resistance which is observed in growing epithelial derived cancer cells could either be an intrinsic, selected and/or an acquired characteristic. A survey of the survival data from several laboratories suggests that epithelial derived tumor cells, which have never been challenged with damaging agents, are in some cases 10 to 2,000 times more resistant to various chemotherapeutic agents as compared to hematopoietic cell lines. An intrinsic characteristic of epithelial cells is their resistance to the lethal effects of multiple types of damaging agents. A major feature of epithelial derived tumors is the expression of the intermediate filament type proteins known as cytokeratin. The simplest cytokeratin combination, cytokeratin 8 and 18, is a major cytoplasmic element within the cells of epithelial derived tumors. Earlier work showed that cytokeratin could be modified by mitoxantrone, a chemotherapeutic agent used in the treatment of breast cancer. Increasing data indicates that the intrinsic drug resistance phenotype is due in part to the presence of continued expression of the cytokeratin 8 and 18. The cytokeratin dependent drug resistance (C-MDR) has been observed in two different cell types that were engineered to contain cytokeratin 8 and 18 expression. The cytokeratin monomers are known to self assemble into intermediate filament networks as shown by numerous basic studies. Experiments using transfected cell lines which are unable to assemble networks indicated that C-MDR does not depend upon the formation of an intermediate filament network. Selection of cytokeratin network defective tumor cells did not increase their sensitivity to chemotherapeutic agents. These data are interesting since it suggests that the C-MDR phenotype is not dependent upon the structural nature (i.e. network forming ability) of the cytokeratin. Our current working hypothesis is that the interaction of the damaging agent with cytokeratin may initiate signaling response(s) for cell survival.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)499-506
Number of pages8
JournalCancer and Metastasis Reviews
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1996


  • cancer treatment
  • cytokeratin
  • cytoskeleton
  • intermediate filaments
  • multiple drug resistance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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