International journal of oncology

Acquired resistance of pancreatic cancer cells to treatment with gemcitabine and HER-inhibitors is accompanied by increased sensitivity to STAT3 inhibition.

PMID 26781210


Drug-resistance is a major contributing factor for the poor prognosis in patients with pancreatic cancer. We have shown previously that the irreversible ErbB family blocker afatinib, is more effective than the reversible EGFR tyrosine kinase inhibitor erlotinib in inhibiting the growth of human pancreatic cancer cells. The aim of this study was to develop human pancreatic cancer cell (BxPc3) variants with acquired resistance to treatment with gemcitabine, afatinib, or erlotinib, and to investigate the molecular changes that accompany the acquisition of a drug-resistant phenotype. We also investigated the therapeutic potential of various agents in the treatment of such drug-resistant variants. Three variant forms of BxPc3 cells with acquired resistance to gemcitabine (BxPc3GEM), afatinib (BxPc3AFR) or erlotinib (BxPc3OSIR) were developed following treatment with increasing doses of such drugs. The expression level, mutational and phosphorylation status of various growth factor receptors and downstream cell signaling molecules were determined by FACS, human phopsho-RTK array, and western blot analysis while the sulforhodamine B assay was used for determining the effect of various agents on the growth of such tumours. We found that all three BxPc3 variants with acquired resistance to gemcitabine (BxPc3GEM), afatinib (BxPc3AFR) or erlotinib (BxPc3OSIR) also become less sensitive to treatment with the two other agents. Acquisition of resistance to these agents was accompanied by upregulation of p-c-MET, p-STAT3, CD44, increased autocrine production of EGFR ligand amphiregulin and differential activation status of EGFR tyrosine residues as well as downregulation of total and p-SRC. Of all therapeutic interventions examined, including the addition of an anti-EGFR antibody ICR62, an anti-CD44 monoclonal antibody, and of STAT3 or c-MET inhibitors, only treatment with the STAT3 inhibitor Stattic produced a higher growth inhibitory effect in all three drug-resistant variants. In addition, treatment with a combination of afatinib with either c-MET inhibitor Crizotinib or Stattic resulted in an additive or synergistic growth inhibition in all three variants. Our results suggest that activation of STAT3 may play an important role in the acquisition of resistance to gemcitabine and HER inhibitors in pancreatic cancer and warrant further studies on the therapeutic potential of STAT3 inhibitors in such a setting.

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Stattic, ≥98% (HPLC), powder