Synergistic antitumor activity of ZD6474, an inhibitor of vascular endothelial growth factor receptor and epidermal growth factor receptor signaling, with gemcitabine and ionizing radiation against pancreatic cancer

Cataldo Bianco, Elisa Giovannetti, Fortunato Ciardiello, Valentina Mey, Sara Nannizzi, Giampaolo Tortora, Teresa Troiani, Francesco Pasqualetti, Gail Eckhardt, Mario de Liguoro, Simona Ricciardi, Mario Del Tacca, David Raben, Luca Cionini, Romano Danesi
Clinical Cancer Research 2006 December 1, 12 (23): 7099-107

PURPOSE: Standard treatments have modest effect against pancreatic cancer, and current research focuses on agents targeting molecular pathways involved in tumor growth and angiogenesis. This study investigated the interactions between ZD6474, an inhibitor of tyrosine kinase activities of vascular endothelial growth factor receptor-2 and epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), gemcitabine, and ionizing radiation in human pancreatic cancer cells and analyzed the molecular mechanisms underlying this combination.

EXPERIMENTAL DESIGN: ZD6474, ionizing radiation, and gemcitabine, alone or in combination, were given in vitro to MIA PaCa-2, PANC-1, and Capan-1 cells and in vivo to MIA PaCa-2 tumor xenografts. The effects of treatments were studied by the evaluation of cytotoxicity, apoptosis, cell cycle, EGFR and Akt phosphorylation, modulation of gene expression of enzymes related to gemcitabine activity (deoxycytidine kinase and ribonucleotide reductase), as well as vascular endothelial growth factor immunohistochemistry and microvessel count.

RESULTS: In vitro, ZD6474 dose dependently inhibited cell growth, induced apoptosis, and synergistically enhanced the cytotoxic activity of gemcitabine and ionizing radiation. Moreover, ZD6474 inhibited phosphorylation of EGFR and Akt and triggered cell apoptosis. PCR analysis showed that ZD6474 increased the ratio between gene expression of deoxycytidine kinase and ribonucleotide reductase. In vivo, ZD6474 showed significant antitumor activity alone and in combination with radiotherapy and gemcitabine, and the combination of all three modalities enhanced MIA PaCA-2 tumor growth inhibition compared with gemcitabine alone.

CONCLUSIONS: ZD6474 decreases EGFR and Akt phosphorylation, enhances apoptosis, favorably modulates gene expression in cancer cells, and acts synergistically with gemcitabine and radiotherapy to inhibit tumor growth. These findings support the investigation of this combination in the clinical setting.

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