Molecular cancer therapeutics

Small molecule inhibitor YM155-mediated activation of death receptor 5 is crucial for chemotherapy-induced apoptosis in pancreatic carcinoma.

PMID 25344582


Despite much effort, pancreatic cancer survival rates are still dismally low. Novel therapeutics may hold the key to improving survival. YM155 is a small molecule inhibitor that has shown antitumor activity in a number of cancers by reducing the expression of survivin. The aim of our study is to understand the mechanisms by which YM155 functions in pancreatic cancer cells. We established the antitumor effect of YM155 with in vitro studies in cultured cells, and in vivo studies using a mouse xenograft model. Our data demonstrated that YM155 reduced the expression of survivin; however, downregulation of survivin itself is insufficient to induce apoptosis in pancreatic cancer cells. We showed for the first time that treatment with YM155 increased death receptor 5 (DR5) expression in pancreatic cancer cells. We found that YM155 induced apoptosis by broad-spectrum inhibition of IAP family member proteins (e.g., CIAP1/2 and FLIP) and induced proapoptotic Bak protein upregulation and activation; the antitumor effect of YM155 treatment with either the DR5 agonist lexatumumab or gemcitabine on pancreatic cancer cells was synergistic. Our data also revealed that YM155 inhibits tumor growth in vivo, without apparent toxicity to the noncancerous human pancreatic ductal epithelial cell line. Together, these findings suggest that YM155 could be a novel therapeutic agent for pancreatic cancer.