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J Mol Med (Berl). 2011 Sep;89(9):877-89. doi: 10.1007/s00109-011-0774-y. Epub 2011 Jun 16.

Autophagy suppression promotes apoptotic cell death in response to inhibition of the PI3K-mTOR pathway in pancreatic adenocarcinoma.

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Divisions of Gastroenterology and Hematology/Oncology, Department of Medicine, University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, CA, USA.


Targeting of pathways downstream of RAS represents a promising therapeutic strategy for pancreatic cancer, the fourth leading cause of cancer-related death in the USA, since activation of the Raf-MEK-ERK and PI3K-AKT pathways is found frequently in this disease and is associated with poor prognosis. Taking advantage of a panel of human PDAC cell lines and specific inhibitors of PI3K and/or mTOR, we systematically address the question whether dual-targeted inhibition of the PI3K and mTOR pathways offers advantages over single-targeted inhibition of PI3K in PDAC. We observe greater overall susceptibility of cell lines to dual inhibition compared to targeting PI3K alone. However, we find that dual inhibition of PI3K and mTOR induces autophagy to a greater extent than inhibition of each target alone. In agreement with this, we show that combined administration of PI3K/mTOR and autophagy inhibitors results in increased anti-tumor activity in vitro and in vivo in models of pancreatic adenocarcinoma. XL765, a PI3K/mTOR inhibitor used in our in vivo studies, is currently undergoing clinical evaluation in a variety of cancer types, while the autophagy inhibitor chloroquine is a widely used anti-malaria compound. Thus, our studies provide rationale for clinical development of combinations of these compounds for the treatment of pancreatic adenocarcinoma.

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