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Pancreas. 2009 Oct;38(7):782-90. doi: 10.1097/MPA.0b013e3181a85999.

Enhanced antitumor effect of combined gemcitabine and proton radiation in the treatment of pancreatic cancer.

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Department of Basic Sciences, Center for Health Disparities Research and Molecular Medicine, Loma Linda University, CA, 92350, USA.



This study evaluates the efficacy of combining proton irradiation with gemcitabine, and the role the inhibitor of apoptosis proteins survivin and X-linked inhibitor of apoptosis protein (XIAP) play in the radiosensitive versus radioresistant status of pancreatic cancer.


The radioresistant (PANC-1) and radiosensitive (MIA PaCa-2) pancreatic carcinoma cells' response to combined gemcitabine and proton irradiation was compared. Cells were treated with 0.1 to 500 microM gemcitabine and 0- to 15-Gy proton irradiation after which trypan blue and flow cytometry were used to determine changes in the cell cycle and apoptosis. Expression levels of survivin and XIAP were measured using Western blotting. Combination therapy with gemcitabine for 24 hours followed by 10-Gy proton irradiation proved most effective.


Gemcitabine and proton irradiation resulted in increased survivin levels with little apoptosis. However, combination therapy resulted in robust apoptotic induction with a concomitant survivin and XIAP reduction in the MIA PaCa-2 cells with little effect in the PANC-1 cells. Small interfering RNA studies confirmed a role for XIAP in the radioresistance of PANC-1 cells.


Our data demonstrate that combining gemcitabine and proton irradiation enhances apoptosis in human pancreatic cancer cells when XIAP levels decrease. Therefore, XIAP may play an important role in human pancreatic cancer proton radioresistance.

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