Author(s): Mamaghani S, Patel S, Hedley DW
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Abstract BACKGROUND: Aberrant activation NF-kappaB has been proposed as a mechanism of drug resistance in pancreatic cancer. Recently, inhibition of glycogen synthase kinase-3 has been shown to exert anti-tumor effects on pancreatic cancer cells by suppressing NF-kappaB. Consequently, we investigated whether inhibition of GSK-3 sensitizes pancreatic cancer cells to the chemotherapeutic agent gemcitabine. METHODS: GSK-3 inhibition was achieved using the pharmacological agent AR-A014418 or siRNA against GSK-3 alpha and beta isoforms. Cytotoxicity was measured using a Sulphorhodamine B assay and clonogenic survival following exposure of six different pancreatic cancer cell lines to a range of doses of either gemcitabine, AR-A014418 or both for 24, 48 and 72 h. We measured protein expression levels by immunoblotting. Basal and TNF-alpha induced activity of NF-kappaB was assessed using a luciferase reporter assay in the presence or absence of GSK-3 inhibition. RESULTS: GSK-3 inhibition reduced both basal and TNF-alpha induced NF-kappaB luciferase activity. Knockdown of GSK-3 beta reduced nuclear factor kappa B luciferase activity to a greater extent than GSK-3 alpha, and the greatest effect was seen with dual knockdown of both GSK-3 isoforms. GSK-3 inhibition also resulted in reduction of the NF-kappaB target proteins XIAP, Bcl-XL, and cyclin D1, associated with growth inhibition and decreased clonogenic survival. In all cell lines, treatment with either AR-A014418, or gemcitabine led to growth inhibition in a dose- and time-dependent manner. However, with the exception of PANC-1 where drug synergy occurred with some dose schedules, the inhibitory effect of combined drug treatment was additive, sub-additive, or even antagonistic. CONCLUSION: GSK-3 inhibition has anticancer effects against pancreatic cancer cells with a range of genetic backgrounds associated with disruption of NF-kappaB, but does not significantly sensitize these cells to the standard chemotherapy agent gemcitabine. This lack of synergy might be context or cell line dependent, but could also be explained on the basis that although NF-kappaB is an important mediator of pancreatic cancer cell survival, it plays a minor role in gemcitabine resistance. Further work is needed to understand the mechanisms of this effect, including the potential for rational combination of GSK3 inhibitors with other targeted agents for the treatment of pancreatic cancer.
This article was published in BMC Cancer
and referenced in Journal of Cytology & Histology