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Ann Surg. 2007 Aug;246(2):259-68.

Type I interferons in the treatment of pancreatic cancer: mechanisms of action and role of related receptors.

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Department of Internal Medicine, Erasmus MC, Rotterdam, The Netherlands.



We evaluated the role of type I interferons (IFNs) and IFN receptors in the regulation of cell growth in 3 human pancreatic adenocarcinoma cell lines (BxPC-3, MiaPaCa-2, and Panc-1).


Chemotherapy and radiotherapy have a marginal role in the management of pancreatic adenocarcinoma. The addition of IFN-alpha showed promising results in early clinical trials.


Cell proliferation and apoptosis were evaluated by DNA measurement and DNA fragmentation, respectively. Type I IFN receptor (IFNAR-1 and IFNAR-2 subunits) was determined by quantitative RT-PCR and immunocytochemistry. Cell cycle distribution was evaluated by propidium iodide staining and flow-cytometric analysis.


The incubation with IFN-beta for 6 days showed a potent inhibitory effect on the proliferation of BxPC-3 (IC(50), 14 IU/mL) and MiaPaCa-2 (IC(50), 64 IU/mL). The inhibitory effect of IFN-beta was stronger than IFN-alpha in all 3 cell lines and mainly modulated by the stimulation of apoptosis, although cell cycle arrest was induced as well. The expression of the type I IFN receptors was significantly higher in BxPC-3 (the most sensitive cell line to IFN) and mainly localized on the membrane, whereas in Panc-1 (the most resistant cell line) about 60% to 70% of cells were negative for IFNAR-2c with a mainly cytoplasmic staining for IFNAR-2c.


The antitumor activity of IFN-beta is more potent than IFN-alpha in pancreatic cancer cell lines through the induction of apoptosis. Further studies should investigate in vivo whether the intensity and distribution of IFNAR-1 and IFNAR-2c may predict the response to therapy with IFN-alpha and IFN-beta in pancreatic cancer.

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