Mechanism of sensitization of MDR cancer cells by Pluronic block copolymers: Selective energy depletion

E. V. Batrakova, S. Li, W. F. Elmquist, D. W. Miller, V. Y. Alakhov, A. V. Kabanov

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222 Scopus citations


This paper, for the first time, demonstrates that exposure of cells to the poly(ethylene oxide)-poly(propylene oxide) block copolymer, Pluronic P85, results in a substantial decrease in ATP levels selectively in MDR cells. Cells expressing high levels of functional P-glycoprotein (MCF-7/ADR, KBv; LLC-MDR1; Caco-2, bovine brain microvessel endothelial cells [BBMECs]) are highly responsive to Pluronic treatment, while cells with low levels of P-glycoprotein expression (MCF-7, KB, LLC-PK1, human umbilical vein endothelial cells [HUVECs] C2C12 myoblasts) are much less responsive to such treatment. Cytotoxicity studies suggest that Pluronic acts as a chemosensitizer and potentiates cytotoxic effects of doxorubicin in MDR cells. The ability of Pluronic to inhibit P-glycoprotein and sensitize MDR cells appears to be a result of ATP depletion. Because many mechanisms of drug resistance are energy dependent, a successful strategy for treating MDR cancer could be based on selective energy depletion in MDR cells. Therefore, the finding of the energy-depleting effects of Pluronic P85, in combination with its sensitization effects is of considerable theoretical and practical significance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1987-1997
Number of pages11
JournalBritish Journal of Cancer
Issue number12
StatePublished - 2001

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the United States National Institutes of Health (RO1 NS366229; RO1 CA8922501).


  • ATP
  • Doxorubicin
  • MDR
  • Pluronic
  • Sensitisation


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