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Cancer Res. 2007 Jan 15;67(2):616-25.

Heat shock protein 70 increases tumorigenicity and inhibits apoptosis in pancreatic adenocarcinoma.

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  • 1Department of Surgery, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55455, USA.


Pancreatic carcinoma is a malignant disease that responds poorly to chemotherapy because of its resistance to apoptosis. Heat shock proteins (Hsp) are not only cytoprotective but also interfere with the apoptotic cascade. Here, we investigated the role of Hsp70 in regulating apoptosis in pancreatic cancer cells. Hsp70 expression was increased in pancreatic cancer cells compared with normal pancreatic ductal cells. This was confirmed by increased mRNA levels for Hsp70 in human pancreatic cancer tissue compared with neighboring normal tissue from the same patient. Depletion of Hsp70 by quercetin decreased cell viability and induced apoptosis in cancer cells but not in normal pancreatic ductal cells. To show that this is a specific effect of Hsp70 on apoptosis, levels of Hsp70 were knocked down by short interfering RNA treatment, which also induced apoptosis in cancer cells as indicated by Annexin V staining and caspase activation. Daily administration of quercetin to nude mice decreased tumor size as well as Hsp70 levels in tumor tissue. These findings indicate that Hsp70 plays an important role in apoptosis and that selective Hsp70 knockdown can be used to induce apoptosis in pancreatic cancer cells.

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