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Keywords:

  • acute promyelocytic leukaemia;
  • multidrug resistance;
  • P-glycoprotein;
  • PGP;
  • LRP;
  • MRP1

We analysed the expression of three drug transporter proteins [p-glycoprotein (PGP), lung resistance-related protein (LRP) and multidrug resistance-associated protein (MRP1)] involved in anthracycline resistance that are frequently overexpressed in poor-risk adult acute non-lymphocytic leukaemia (ANLL), in 23 acute promyelocytic leukaemia (APL) patients at onset managed at a single institution. Cellular daunorubicin accumulation was also evaluated. At onset, no case had PGP or MRP1 expression that exceeded that of non-multidrug-resistant (MDR) cell lines. Only one case showed LRP overexpression. No peculiar MDR features distinguished the seven patients who relapsed from those who maintained complete remission. In the onset vs. first relapse, only one patient showed an increased (threefold) PGP expression at relapse. At second relapse, three out of four patients showed a PGP expression two- to threefold higher than baseline values. These results are consistent with the view that low PGP, LRP and MRP1 expression and the absence of defects in intracellular drug accumulation may account for the peculiarly high sensitivity of APLs to anthracycline. It does not support the screening of MDR markers in APL patients at onset as predicting factors of early relapse. The results suggest that no significant changes in PGP, LRP or MRP1 expression are likely to occur at first relapse. In contrast, PGP expression is likely to increase later in the patient history as a result of additional chemotherapy courses.