Document Type


Journal Title

Pharmacological Reviews

Publication Date





Human aldo-keto reductases (AKRs) catalyze the NADPH-dependent reduction of carbonyl groups to alcohols for conjugation reactions to proceed. They are implicated in resistance to cancer chemotherapeutic agents either because they are directly involved in their metabolism or help eradicate the cellular stress created by these agents (e.g., reactive oxygen species and lipid peroxides). Furthermore, this cellular stress activates the Nuclear factor-erythroid 2 p45-related factor 2 (NRF2)-Kelch-like ECH-associated protein 1 pathway. As many human AKR genes are upregulated by the NRF2 transcription factor, this leads to a feed-forward mechanism to enhance drug resistance. Resistance to major classes of chemotherapeutic agents (anthracyclines, mitomycin, cis-platin, antitubulin agents, vinca alkaloids, and cyclophosphamide) occurs by this mechanism. Human AKRs also catalyze the synthesis of androgens and estrogens and the elimination of progestogens and are involved in hormonal-dependent malignancies. They are upregulated by antihormonal therapy providing a second mechanism for cancer drug resistance and/or syndergize the effects of existing drugs. SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT: Aldo-keot reductases (AKRs) are overexpressed in a large number of human tumors and mediate resistance to cancer chemotherapeutics and antihormonal therapies. Existing drugs and new agents in development may surmount this resistance by acting as specific AKR isoforms or AKR pan-inhibitors to improve clinical outcome.

MeSH Headings

Aldehyde Reductase, Aldo-Keto Reductases, Antineoplastic Agents, Drug Resistance, Humans, Neoplasms



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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.