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J Exp Clin Cancer Res. 2004 Dec;23(4):599-606.

A MEK inhibitor (U0126) markedly inhibits direct liver invasion of orthotopically inoculated human gallbladder cancer cells in nude mice.

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Dept. of Surgical and Molecular Pathology, Dokkyo University School of Medicine, Tochigi, Japan.


Primary cancer of the gallbladder is not unusual. Most cases of gallbladder cancer are found at an advanced stage, accompanied by the invasion to the liver, metastases to the lymph nodes and distant organs, and peritoneal dissemination. In this study, we first examined the effect of mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase (MEK) inhibitors on the production of matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs), urokinase-type plasminogen activator (uPA), and tissue inhibitors of metalloproteinases (TIMPs) in a human gallbladder cancer cell line, NOZ cells in vitro. MEK inhibitors (PD98059 and U0126) inhibited the production of MMP-2, MMP-9 and high MW uPA, and upregulated TIMPs (TIMP-1, TIMP-2 and TIMP-3). Subsequently, we examined the effect of U0126 on invasion and metastasis of orthotopically inoculated NOZ cells in nude mice. Direct liver invasion by cancer cells was detected in all of the mice in the control group, but in only one mouse in the U0126-treated group. Most of the primary tumors in the U0126-treated group expanded to the liver, but did not invade into the liver. Vessel invasion in the liver was evident in 4 out of 5 mice in the control group, but in only one mouse in the U0126-treated group. Lymph node metastases and peritoneal dissemination were recognized in all of the mice in both groups. All 5 mice in the U0126-treated group, and 4 out of 5 mice in the vehicle control group, had metastases in the lungs. The present results suggest that a MEK inhibitor, U0126, prolonged the survival of the mice with NOZ tumor by inhibiting direct liver invasion and vessel invasion of the cancer cells via down-regulation of the matrix degrading ability of the cancer cells.

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