Resistance to apoptosis is a hallmark of many solid tumors, including pancreatic cancers, and may be the underlying basis for the suboptimal response to chemoradiation therapies. Overexpression of a family of inhibitor of apoptosis proteins (IAP) is commonly observed in pancreatic malignancies. We determined the therapeutic efficacy of recently described small-molecule antagonists of the X-linked IAP (XIAP) in preclinical models of pancreatic cancer. Primary pancreatic cancers were assessed for XIAP expression by immunohistochemistry, using a pancreatic cancer tissue microarray. XIAP small-molecule antagonists ("XAntag"; compounds 1396-11 and 1396-12) and the related compound 1396-28 were tested in vitro in a panel of human pancreatic cancer cell lines (Panc1, Capan1, and BxPC3) and in vivo in s.c. xenograft models for their ability to induce apoptosis and impede neoplastic growth. In addition, pancreatic cancer cell lines were treated with XAntags in conjunction with either tumor necrosis factor-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL) or with radiation to determine potential synergy for such dual targeting of the apoptotic machinery. XIAP was overexpressed in 14 of 18 (77%) of primary pancreatic cancers. The XAntags1396-11 and 1396-12, but not the inactive isomer 1396-28, induced profound apoptosis in multiple pancreatic cancer cell lines tested in vitro, with a IC50 in the range of 2 to 5 μmol/L. Mechanistic specificity of the XAntags for the baculoviral IAP repeat-2 domain of XIAP was shown by preferential activation of downstream "effector" caspases (caspase-3 and caspase-7) versus the upstream "initiator" caspase-9. S.c. BxPC3 xenograft growth in athymic mice was significantly inhibited by monotherapy with XAntags; treated xenografts showed marked apoptosis and increased cleavage of caspase-3. Notably, striking synergy was demonstrable when XAntags were combined with either TRAIL or radiation therapy, as measured by growth inhibition in vitro and reduced colony formation in soft agar of pancreatic cancer cell lines, at dosages where these therapeutic modalities had minimal to modest effects when used alone. Finally, XAntags in combination with the standard-of-care agent for advanced pancreatic cancer, gemcitabine, resulted in significantly greater inhibition of in vitro growth than gemcitabine alone. Our results confirm that pharmacologic inhibition of XIAP is a potent therapeutic modality in pancreatic cancers. These antagonists are independently capable of inducing pancreatic cancer cell death and also show synergy when combined with proapoptotic ligands (TRAIL), with radiation, and with a conventional antimetabolite, gemcitabine. These preclinical results suggest that targeting of the apoptotic machinery in pancreatic cancers with XAntags is a promising therapeutic option that warrants further evaluation.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research