Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is one of the most aggressive human malignancies and tends to be relatively resistant to conventional therapies. Activated Ras oncogene mutations are found in up to 90% of PDAC, leading to activation of the Ras/Raf/MEK/ERK signaling pathway. Sorafenib is a multikinase inhibitor of the Ras/Raf/MEK/ERK pathway and of tumor angiogenesis. Endothelial monocyte activating polypeptide II (EMAP) enhances gemcitabine effects in PDAC. Antitumor activity of sorafenib was evaluated in combination with gemcitabine (Gem) and the antiangiogenic agent EMAP in experimental PDAC.
Cell proliferation and protein expression were analyzed by WST-1 assay and Western blotting. Animal survival studies were performed in murine PDAC xenografts.
Sorafenib decreased phospho-MEK, phospho-ERK1/2, phospho-p70S6K and phospho-4EBP-1 expression in PDAC cells. Sorafenib inhibited in vitro proliferation of all four PDAC cell lines tested. Additive effects on cell proliferation inhibition were observed in the gemcitabine-sorafenib combination in PDAC cells, and in combinations of sorafenib or EMAP with gemcitabine in endothelial (HUVEC) and fibroblast (WI-38) cells. Sorafenib, alone or in combination with gemcitabine and EMAP, induced apoptosis in HUVECs and WI-38 cells as observed via increased expression of cleaved poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase-1 (PARP-1) and caspase-3 proteins. Compared to controls (median survival: 22 days), animal survival increased after Gem therapy (29 days) but not in sorafenib (23 days) or EMAP therapy alone (25 days). Further increases in survival occurred in combination therapy groups Gem+sorafenib (30 days, p=0.004), Gem+EMAP (33 days, p=0.002), and Gem+sorafenib+EMAP (36 days, p=0.004), but not after the sorafenib+EMAP combination (24 days).
These findings demonstrate that the addition of a polymechanistic antiangiogenic agent such as EMAP can enhance the combination treatment effects of sorafenib and cytotoxic PDAC therapy.