Trifluoperazine as a modulator of multidrug resistance in refractory breast cancer

John R. Murren, Henry J. Durivage, Antonio C. Buzaid, Michael Reiss, Stuart D. Flynn, Darryl Carter, William N. Hait

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


Overexpression of P-glycoprotein (P-gp) has been implicated as the mechanism of multidrug resistance (MDR) in a number of human cancers, including carcinoma of the breast. We conducted a clinical trial to determine whether the P-gp inhibitor, trifluoperazine, could sensitize patients with refractory breast cancer to vinblastine chemotherapy. Adult patients with histologically confirmed, refractory, advanced breast cancer were treated with vinblastine at a dose of 1.7 mg/m2 per day by continuous infusion for five consecutive days. Patients who did not respond after two cycles were subsequently treated with vinblastine plus trifluoperazine at a dose of 8 mg twice daily during the five days of chemotherapy. In patients from whom tumor samples were available, the expression of P-gp was determined by immunocytochemistry. Of 35 patients enrolled, 30 were evaluable, 2 of whom (7%) achieved a partial response to vinblastine alone. Among the 16 patients treated with vinblastine plus trifluoperazine there was one response (6%) which lasted 16 weeks. Tumor samples were available from 16 patients, and 14 (87%) were immunoreactive for P-gp. P-gp expression was detected both in the patient who responded to vinblastine plus trifloperazine and in one of the two patients who responded to vinblastine alone. Continuous-infusion vinblastine demonstrated limited activity in this study. Furthermore, trifluoperazine did not effectively reverse established resistance to vinblastine. This failure may be related the presence of multiple mechanisms of drug resistance in this heavily pretreated population, or because ineffective concentrations of the modulator were achieved in vivo. Future studies should evaluate more effective modulators, and attempt to reverse MDR earlier in the course of treatment, before other forms of resistance can develop.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)65-70
Number of pages6
JournalCancer Chemotherapy and Pharmacology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1996
Externally publishedYes


  • Breast cancer
  • Multidrug resistance
  • Trifluoperazine
  • Vinblastine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cancer Research
  • Oncology
  • Pharmacology


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