Published online Aug 7, 2018. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v24.i29.3222
Peer-review started: May 4, 2018
First decision: May 17, 2018
Revised: May 31, 2018
Accepted: June 27, 2018
Article in press: June 27, 2018
Published online: August 7, 2018
Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is one of the most aggressive diseases and is characterized by high chemoresistance, leading to the lack of effective therapeutic approaches and grim prognosis. Despite increasing understanding of the mechanisms of chemoresistance in cancer and the role of ATP-binding cassette (ABC) transporters in this resistance, the therapeutic potential of their pharmacological inhibition has not been successfully exploited yet. In spite of the discovery of potent pharmacological modulators of ABC transporters, the results obtained in clinical trials have been so far disappointing, with high toxicity levels impairing their successful administration to the patients. Critically, although ABC transporters have been mostly studied for their involvement in development of multidrug resistance (MDR), in recent years the contribution of ABC transporters to cancer initiation and progression has emerged as an important area of research, the understanding of which could significantly influence the development of more specific and efficient therapies. In this review, we explore the role of ABC transporters in the development and progression of malignancies, with focus on PDAC. Their established involvement in development of MDR will be also presented. Moreover, an emerging role for ABC transporters as prognostic tools for patients’ survival will be discussed, demonstrating the therapeutic potential of ABC transporters in cancer therapy.
Core tip: Pancreatic cancer is one of the deadliest cancers due to its highly aggressive biology and resistance to broad range of therapeutics. Expression of ATP-binding cassette (ABC) transporters by cancer cells is one of the main mechanisms responsible for the lowered drug accumulation. However, the attempts made in multidrug resistance reversal by the inhibition of their activity have not provided satisfactory results in clinical trials. Nevertheless, current knowledge on the role played by ABC transporters in carcinogenesis beyond chemoresistance, could create the opportunity for the development of novel, direct targeted therapeutic strategies. Additionally, the association between ABC transporters expression and pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma patients’ prognosis and response to applied therapies confirms their pharmacological potential.