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Br J Cancer. 2003 Jun 16;88(12):1971-8.

Zoledronic acid induces antiproliferative and apoptotic effects in human pancreatic cancer cells in vitro.

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  • 1Oncology Unit, Department of Experimental and Clinical Medicine, Via T. Campanella, 115 'Magna Graecia' University, 88100 Catanzaro, Italy.


Bisphosphonates (BPs) are an emerging class of drugs mostly used in the palliative care of cancer patients. We investigated the in vitro activity of the most potent antiresorptive BP, zoledronic acid (ZOL), on the growth and survival of three human pancreatic cancer (PC) cell lines (BxPC-3, CFPAC-1 and PANC-1). Pancreatic cancer frequently has a dysregulated p21(ras) pathway and therefore appears to be a suitable target for BPs that interfere with the prenylation of small GTP-binding proteins such as p21(ras). We found that ZOL induces growth inhibition (IC(50):10-50 micro M) and apoptotic death of PC cells. The proapoptotic effect was correlated to cleavage/activation of caspase-9 and poly(ADP)-ribose polymerase, but not of caspase-3. Moreover, we studied the p21(ras) signalling in cells exposed to ZOL and detected a reduction of p21(ras) and Raf-1 content and functional downregulation of the terminal enzyme ERK/MAPkinase and of the pKB/Akt survival pathway. Finally, we observed that ZOL induces significant cytoskeletal rearrangements. In conclusion, we demonstrated that ZOL induces growth inhibition and apoptosis on PC cells and interferes with growth and survival pathways downstream to p21(ras). These findings might be relevant for expanding application of BPs in cancer treatment.

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