Patients with pancreatic cancer have dismal prognoses, and novel therapies are urgently needed. Mutations of the KRAS oncogene occur frequently in pancreatic cancer and represent an attractive target. Direct targeting of the predominant KRAS pathways have been challenging and research into therapeutic strategies have been now refocused on pathways downstream of KRAS, phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K) and mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK [MEK]). We hypothesized that concurrent inhibition of the PI3K and MEK pathways would result in synergistic antitumor activity, as it would circumvent the compensatory feedback loop between the two pathways. We investigated the combined effect of the PI3K inhibitor, GDC0941, and the MEK inhibitor, AZD6244, on cell viability, apoptosis and cell signaling in a panel of pancreatic cancer cell lines. An in vivo analysis was conducted on pancreatic cancer xenografts. While BxPC-3 (KRAS wild type) and MIA PaCa-2 (KRAS mutated) cell lines were sensitive to GDC0941 and AZD6244 as single agents, synergistic inhibition of tumor cell growth and induction of apoptosis were observed in both cell lines when the two drugs were combined. Interestingly, phosphorylation of the cap-dependent translational components, 4E-binding protein (p-4E-BP1) and S6 was found to be closely associated with sensitivity to GDC0941 and AZD6244. In BxPC-3 cell xenografts, survival differences were observed between the control and the AZD6244, GDC0941, and combination groups. Our study provides the rationale for concurrent targeting of the PI3K and MEK pathways, regardless of KRAS status, and suggests that phosphorylation of 4E-BP1and S6 can serve as a predictive biomarker for response to treatment.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere77243
JournalPloS one
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 9 2013


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