Determination and reversal of resistance to epirubicin intravesical chemotherapy. A flow cytometric model

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To develop a method of determining the characteristics of epirubicin resistance and to study the reversal of such resistance in the intravesical treatment of superficial bladder cancer, using sensitive and resistant derivatives of a bladder cancer cell line in vitro.

Materials and methods

Epirubicin fluorescence and flow cytometry were used to measure the intracellular levels of epirubicin in both sensitive and resistant live cultured bladder tumour cells, with and without different doses of the resistance-reversing agent verapamil.


There was a reliable, highly significant and consistent difference in intracellular epirubicin concentration between the resistant and sensitive bladder tumour cells. In addition, it was possible to substantially reverse the features of resistant cell subline with additional verapamil.


Application of this assay to clinical specimens should allow better targeting of epirubicin intravesical chemotherapy and avoid the premature termination of such treatment in patients whose tumours remain sensitive to this agent. Furthermore, the addition of verapamil to intravesical epirubicin may permit effective treatment of those patients whose tumours have inherent or acquired resistance to epirubicin.

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