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PLoS One. 2012;7(3):e33379. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0033379. Epub 2012 Mar 9.

Activation of PI3K/AKT and MAPK pathway through a PDGFRβ-dependent feedback loop is involved in rapamycin resistance in hepatocellular carcinoma.

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Department of Liver Surgery, Liver Cancer Institute, Zhongshan Hospital, Fudan University, Key Laboratory of Carcinogenesis and Cancer Invasion of Ministry of Education, Shanghai, People's Republic of China.



Rapamycin is an attractive approach for the treatment and prevention of HCC recurrence after liver transplantation. However, the objective response rates of rapamycin achieved with single-agent therapy were modest, supporting that rapamycin resistance is a frequently observed characteristic of many cancers. Some studies have been devoted to understanding the mechanisms of rapamycin resistance, however, the mechanisms are cell-type-dependent and studies on rapamycin resistance in HCC are extremely limited.


The anti-tumor sensitivity of rapamycin was modest in vitro and in vivo. In both human and rat HCC cells, rapamycin up-regulated the expression and phosphorylation of PDGFRβ in a time and dose-dependent manner as assessed by RT-PCR and western blot analysis. Using siRNA mediated knockdown of PDGFRβ, we confirmed that subsequent activation of AKT and ERK was PDGFRβ-dependent and compromised the anti-tumor activity of rapamycin. Then, blockade of this PDGFRβ-dependent feedback loop by sorafenib enhanced the anti-tumor sensitivity of rapamycin in vitro and in an immunocompetent orthotopic rat model of HCC.


Activation of PI3K/AKT and MAPK pathway through a PDGFRβ-dependent feedback loop compromises the anti-tumor activity of rapamycin in HCC, and blockade of this feedback loop by sorafenib is an attractive approach to improve the anti-tumor effect of rapamycin, particularly in preventing or treating HCC recurrence after liver transplantation.

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