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Mechanisms of resistance to chemotherapy in non-small cell lung cancer

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Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), which represents 80–85% of lung cancer cases, is one of the leading causes of human death worldwide. The majority of patients undergo an intensive and invasive treatment regimen, which may include radiotherapy, chemotherapy, targeted therapy, immunotherapy, or a combination of these, depending on disease stage and performance status. Despite advances in therapeutic regimens, the 5-year survival of NSCLC is approximately 20–30%, largely due to diagnosis at advanced stages. Conventional chemotherapy is still the standard treatment option for patients with NSCLC, especially those with advanced disease. However, the emergence of resistance to chemotherapeutic agents (chemoresistance) poses a significant obstacle to the management of patients with NSCLC. Therefore, to develop efficacious chemotherapeutic approaches for NSCLC, it is necessary to understand the mechanisms underlying chemoresistance. Several mechanisms are known to mediate chemoresistance. These include altered cellular targets for chemotherapy, decreased cellular drug concentrations, blockade of chemotherapy-induced cell cycle arrest and apoptosis, acquisition of epithelial–mesenchymal transition and cancer stem cell-like phenotypes, deregulated expression of microRNAs, epigenetic modulation, and the interaction with tumor microenvironments. In this review, we summarize the mechanisms underlying chemoresistance and tumor recurrence in NSCLC and discuss potential strategies to avoid or overcome chemoresistance.

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This work was supported by a grant from the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF), the Ministry of Science and ICT (MSIT), Republic of Korea (No. NRF-2016R1A3B1908631).

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Correspondence to Ho-Young Lee.

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The authors declared that they have no competing interests.

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Min, HY., Lee, HY. Mechanisms of resistance to chemotherapy in non-small cell lung cancer. Arch. Pharm. Res. 44, 146–164 (2021).

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