Pancreatic cancer is a highly aggressive tumor, mostly resistant to the standard treatments. Nucleolin is overexpressed in cancers and its inhibition impairs tumor growth. Herein, we showed that nucleolin was overexpressed in human specimens of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) and that the overall survival significantly increased in patients with low levels of nucleolin. The nucleolin antagonist N6L strongly impaired the growth of primary tumors and liver metastasis in an orthotopic mouse model of PDAC (mPDAC). Similar antitumor effect of N6L has been observed in a highly angiogenic mouse model of pancreatic neuroendocrine tumor RIP-Tag2. N6L significantly inhibited both human and mouse pancreatic cell proliferation and invasion. Notably, the analysis of tumor vasculature revealed a strong increase of pericyte coverage and vessel perfusion both in mPDAC and RIP-Tag2 tumors, in parallel to an inhibition of tumor hypoxia. Nucleolin inhibition directly affected endothelial cell (EC) activation and changed a proangiogenic signature. Among the vascular activators, nucleolin inhibition significantly decreased angiopoietin-2 (Ang-2) secretion and expression in ECs, in the tumor and in the plasma of mPDAC mice. As a consequence of the observed N6L-induced tumor vessel normalization, pre-treatment with N6L efficiently improved chemotherapeutic drug delivery and increased the antitumor properties of gemcitabine in PDAC mice. In conclusion, nucleolin inhibition is a new anti-pancreatic cancer therapeutic strategy that dually blocks tumor progression and normalizes tumor vasculature, improving the delivery and efficacy of chemotherapeutic drugs. Moreover, we unveiled Ang-2 as a potential target and suitable response biomarker for N6L treatment in pancreatic cancer.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research