An Inhibitor of GSK3B and HDACs Kills Pancreatic Cancer Cells and Slows Pancreatic Tumor Growth and Metastasis in Mice

Growth, progression, and drug resistance of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinomas (PDACs) have been associated with increased levels and activity of glycogen synthase kinase 3 beta (GSK3B) and histone deacetylases (HCACs). We designed and synthesized molecules that simultaneously inhibit the activities of both enzymes. We tested the effects of one of these molecules, metavert, in pancreatic cancer cells and mice with pancreatic tumors.



We tested the ability of metavert to bind GSK3B and HDACs using surface plasmon resonance. MIA PaCa-2, Bx-PC3, HPAF-II, and HPDE6 cell lines were incubated with different concentrations of metavert, with or without paclitaxel or gemcitabine, or with other inhibitors of GSK3B and HDACs; cells were analyzed for apoptosis and migration and by immunoblotting, immunofluorescence, and real-time PCR. Krasþ/LSLG12D;Trp53þ/LSLR172H;Pdx-1-Cre (KPC) mice (2 months old) were given injections of metavert (5 mg/Kg, 3 times/week) or vehicle (control). B6.129J mice with tumors grown from UN-KPC961-Luc cells were given injections of metavert or vehicle. Tumors and metastases were counted and pancreata were analyzed by immunohistochemistry. Glucose metabolism was measured using 13C-glucose tracer and mass spectroscopy and flow cytometry. Cytokine levels in blood samples were measured using multiplexing ELISA.


Metavert significantly reduced survival of PDAC cells but not non-transformed cells; the agent reduced markers of the epithelial to mesenchymal transition and stem cells in PDAC cell lines. Cells incubated with metavert in combination with irradiation and paclitaxel or gemcitabine had reduced survival compared to cells incubated with either agent alone; metavert increased killing of drug-resistant PDAC cells by paclitaxel and gemcitabine. PDAC cells incubated with metavert acquired normalized glucose metabolism. Administration of metavert (alone or in combination with gemcitibine) to KPC mice or mice with syngeneic tumors significantly increased their survival times, slowed tumor growth, prevented tumor metastasis, decreased tumor infiltration by tumor-associated macrophages, and decreased blood levels of cytokines.

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