Inhibition of platelet-derived growth factor receptor phosphorylation by STI571 (Gleevec) reduces growth and metastasis of human pancreatic carcinoma in an orthotopic nude mouse model

Rosa F Hwang, Kenji Yokoi, Corazon D Bucana, Rachel Tsan, Jerald J Killion, Douglas B Evans, Isaiah J Fidler
Clinical Cancer Research 2003 December 15, 9 (17): 6534-44

PURPOSE: We evaluated the expression of platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF) ligands and receptors in clinical specimens of human pancreatic adenocarcinomas and determined the therapeutic effect of STI571 (Gleevec), a protein tyrosine kinase inhibitor of PDGF receptor (PDGFR), on human pancreatic carcinoma cells growing in the pancreas and liver of nude mice.

EXPERIMENTAL DESIGN: Immunohistochemical staining for PDGF-AA and -BB ligands, PDGFR-alpha and -beta, and phosphorylated PDGFR-alpha and -beta was performed on 31 specimens of human pancreatic cancer and L3.6pl human pancreatic adenocarcinoma cell line. To determine the in vivo effects of STI571, nude mice with L3.6pl cells injected into the pancreas were randomized 7 days later to receive one of the following treatments: sterile water p.o. (control), STI571, gemcitabine, or a combination of STI571 and gemcitabine.

RESULTS: In 29 of 31 clinical specimens of human pancreatic adenocarcinoma, both tumor cells and tumor-associated endothelial cells expressed phosphorylated PDGFR-alpha and -beta. L3.6pl cells growing in culture expressed moderate amounts of PDGF-AA and little to no PDGFR-alpha or -beta, whereas L3.6pl cells growing in the pancreas of nude mice expressed a high level of PDGF and receptors. Colocalization immunohistochemical analysis demonstrated expression of activated PDGFR-beta by tumor-associated endothelial cells in both the pancreas and in liver metastases. Tumors of mice treated for 4 weeks with STI571 (50 mg/kg or 100 mg/kg p.o. daily) were slightly smaller than controls. Tumors treated with gemcitabine and STI571 (50 mg/kg) were >70% smaller than tumors in control mice and 36% smaller than those in mice treated with gemcitabine only (P < 0.0002 and P < 0.04, respectively). Combination therapy also inhibited spontaneous metastasis to the liver. Tumors from mice treated with both STI571 and gemcitabine had decreased expression of activated (phosphorylated) PDGFR-alpha and -beta, decreased mean vessel density, decreased cell proliferation, and increased apoptosis of tumor cells.

CONCLUSIONS: Collectively, these data show that activated PDGFR on tumor cells and tumor-endothelial cells can be a novel target for therapy of pancreatic carcinoma.

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