Dual targeting of Raf and VEGF receptor 2 reduces growth and metastasis of pancreatic cancer through direct effects on tumor cells, endothelial cells, and pericytes

Sven A Lang, Philipp Schachtschneider, Christian Moser, Akira Mori, Christina Hackl, Andreas Gaumann, David Batt, Hans J Schlitt, Edward K Geissler, Oliver Stoeltzing
Molecular Cancer Therapeutics 2008, 7 (11): 3509-18
The Ras/Raf/MEK pathway represents an important oncogenic signaling pathway in gastrointestinal malignancies, including pancreatic cancer. Although activating B-Raf mutations are infrequent in pancreatic cancer, we hypothesized that targeting Raf could be valuable for therapy of this cancer entity. Moreover, as vascular endothelial growth factor receptor 2 (VEGFR2) is involved in tumor angiogenesis, we sought to investigate the effects of dual inhibition of Raf and VEGFR2 on pancreatic tumor growth, vascularization, and metastasis. Effects of a Raf/VEGFR2 inhibitor (NVP-AAL881) on pancreatic cancer cells, endothelial cells, and vascular smooth muscle cells were determined by Western blotting, 3-(4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-2,5-diphenyltetrazolium bromide analysis, and migration assays, respectively. Changes in the expression of VEGF-A or survivin were investigated by ELISA and/or real-time PCR. The growth-inhibitory effects of Raf/VEGFR2 inhibition were additionally evaluated in orthotopic tumor models. Results showed that various Raf isoforms were activated in pancreatic cancer cells and NVP-AAL881 diminished the activation of MEK, Akt, Erk, and also STAT3. Moreover, dual inhibition of Raf/VEGFR2 significantly reduced VEGF expression and impaired cancer cell migration. Importantly, besides blocking VEGF-induced Erk and SAPK phosphorylation in endothelial cells, the Raf inhibitor diminished STAT3 phosphorylation, independent of a VEGFR2 blockade, and reduced the expression of survivin. In addition, cell proliferation and migration of both endothelial cells and vascular smooth muscle cells were significantly reduced. In vivo, blocking Raf/VEGFR2 significantly inhibited orthotopic tumor growth and vascularization and reduced cancer metastasis. In conclusion, blocking Raf exerts growth-inhibitory effects on pancreatic tumor cells, endothelial cells, and pericytes and elicits antiangiogenic properties. Dual targeting of Raf and VEGFR2 appears to be a valid strategy for therapy of pancreatic cancer.

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