Chemotherapy drug resistance is a major obstacle in the treatment of cancer. It can result from an increase in levels of cellular drug efflux pumps, such as P-glycoprotein (P-gp). Lapatinib, a growth factor receptor tyrosine kinase inhibitor, is currently in clinical trials for treatment of breast cancer. We examined the impact of co-incubation of chemotherapy drugs in combination with lapatinib in P-gp over-expressing drug resistant cells. Unexpectedly, lapatinib treatment, at clinically relevant concentrations, increased levels of the P-gp drug transporter in a dose- and time-responsive manner. Conversely, exposure to the epidermal growth factor (EGF), an endogenous growth factor receptor ligand, resulted in a decrease in P-gp expression. Despite the lapatinib-induced alteration in P-gp expression, use of accumulation, efflux and toxicity assays demonstrated that the induced alteration in P-gp expression by lapatinib had little direct impact on drug resistance.
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