Co-targeting of CXCR4 and hedgehog pathways disrupts tumor-stromal crosstalk and improves chemotherapeutic efficacy in pancreatic cancer

Mohammad Aslam Khan, Sanjeev Kumar Srivastava, Haseeb Zubair, Girijesh Kumar Patel, Sumit Arora, Khushman Moh'd, James Elliot Carter, Gregory Stephen Gorman, S. Singh, Ajay Pratap Singh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


Pancreatic cancer (PC) remains a therapeutic challenge because of its intrinsic and extrinsic chemoresistance mechanisms. Here, we report that C-X-C motif chemokine receptor 4 (CXCR4) and hedgehog pathways cooperate in PC chemoresistance via bidirectional tumor-stromal crosstalk. We show that when PC cells are co-cultured with pancreatic stellate cells (PSCs) they are significantly more resistant to gemcitabine toxicity than those grown in monoculture. We also demonstrate that this co-culture-induced chemoresistance is abrogated by inhibition of the CXCR4 and hedgehog pathways. Similarly, the co-culture-induced altered expression of genes in PC cells associated with gemcitabine metabolism, antioxidant defense, and cancer stemness is also reversed upon CXCR4 and hedgehog inhibition. We have confirmed the functional impact of these genetic alterations by measuring gemcitabine metabolites, reactive oxygen species production, and sphere formation in vehicle- or gemcitabine-treated monocultures and co-cultured PC cells. Treatment of orthotopic pancreatic tumor- bearing mice with gemcitabine alone or in combination with a CXCR4 antagonist (AMD3100) or hedgehog inhibitor (GDC-0449) displays reduced tumor growth. Notably, we show that the triple combination treatment is the most effective, resulting in nearly complete suppression of tumor growth. Immunohistochemical analysis of Ki67 and cleaved caspase-3 confirm these findings from in vivo imaging and tumor measurements. Our findings provide preclinical and mechanistic evidence that a combination of gemcitabine treatment with targeted inhibition of both the CXCR4 and hedgehog pathways improves outcomes in a PC mouse model.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8413-8424
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number25
StatePublished - Jun 19 2020


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