The anti-tumor effect of Apo2L/TRAIL on patient pancreatic adenocarcinomas grown as xenografts in SCID mice

Bonnie L. Hylander, Rose Pitoniak, Remedios B. Penetrante, John F. Gibbs, Dilek Oktay, Jinrong Cheng, Elizabeth A. Repasky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

90 Scopus citations


Background: Apo2L/TRAIL has considerable promise for cancer therapy based on the fact that this member of the tumor necrosis factor family induces apoptosis in the majority of malignant cells, while normal cells are more resistant. Furthermore, in many cells, when Apo2L/TRAIL is combined with chemotherapy, the effect is synergistic. The majority of this work has been carried out using cell lines. Therefore, investigation of how patient tumors respond to Apo2L/TRAIL can validate and/or complement information obtained from cell lines and prove valuable in the design of future clinical trials. Methods: We have investigated the Apo2L/TRAIL sensitivity of patient derived pancreatic tumors using a patient tumor xenograft/ SCID mouse model. Mice bearing engrafted tumors were treated with Apo2L/TRAIL, gemcitabine or a combination of both therapies. Results: Patient tumors grown as xenografts exhibited a spectrum of sensitivity to Apo2L/TRAIL. Both Apo2L/TRAIL sensitive and resistant pancreatic tumors were found, as well as tumors that showed heterogeneity of response. Changes in apoptotic signaling molecules in a sensitive tumor were analyzed by Western blot following Apo2L/TRAIL treatment; loss of procaspase 8, Bid and procaspase 3 was observed and correlated with inhibition of tumor growth. However, in a tumor that was highly resistant to killing by Apo2L/TRAIL, although there was a partial loss of procaspase 8 and Bid in response to Apo2L/TRAIL treatment, loss of procaspase 3 was negligible. This resistant tumor also expressed a high level of the anti-apoptotic molecule Bcl-XL that, in comparison, was not detected in a sensitive tumor. Importantly, in the majority of these tumors, addition of gemcitabine to Apo2L/TRAIL resulted in a greater anti-tumor effect than either therapy used alone. Conclusion: These data suggest that in a clinical setting we will see heterogeneity in the response of patients' tumors to Apo2L/TRAIL, including tumors that are highly sensitive as well as those that are resistant. While much more work is needed to understand the molecular basis for this heterogeneity, it is very encouraging, that Apo2L/TRAIL in combination with gemcitabine increased therapeutic efficacy in almost every case and therefore may be a highly effective strategy for controlling human pancreatic cancer validating and expanding upon what has been reported for cell lines.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number22
JournalJournal of Translational Medicine
StatePublished - May 19 2005
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)


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