Multi-drug resistance (MDR) has become the largest obstacle to the success of cancer chemotherapies. The mechanisms of MDR and the approaches to test MDR have been discovered, yet not fully understood. This review covers the in vivo and in vitro approaches for the detection of MDR in the laboratory and the mechanisms of MDR in cancers. This study also envisages the future developments toward the clinical and therapeutic applications of MDR in cancer treatment. Future therapeutics for cancer treatment will likely combine the existing therapies with drugs originated from MDR mechanisms such as anti-cancer stem cell drugs, anti-miRNA drugs or anti-epigenetic drugs. The challenges for the clinical detection of MDR will be to find new biomarkers and to determine new evaluation systems before the drug resistance emerges.