During the last grant period, we have obtained evidence that the expression of connective tissue growth factor (CTGF) is elevated in human pancreatic tumors, but not in normal pancreas or pancreatitis. Since pancreatic tumors are highly hypoxia and CTGF is known to be hypoxia inducible, we have focused this grant to understand the role of hypoxia and CTGF in pancreatic tumor progression. The basis for these studies to investigate the importance of CTGF in pancreatic tumor progression derive from our demonstration that targeted inhibition of CTGF with a monoclonal specific antibody results in significant growth inhibition of two different pancreatic cancer cell lines implanted as subcutaneous tumors. In this competitive renewal, Project 1 will focus on determining the mechanistic role of CTGF and its individual domains on pancreatic tumor progression under normoxic and hypoxic conditions. Our preliminary data suggests that CTGF is able to enhance the growth of pancreatic tumor cells. Induction of CTGF had no effect on cell growth on plastic, but significantly enhanced spheroid growth in soft agar. Most striking was the increase in cell adhesion induced by CTGF expression. These changes in cell adhesion that are necessary for 3-D growth lead us to test the hypothesis that one of the major roles of CTGF in malignant progression is to regulate cell-cell adhesion, and that inhibiting this activity will impact tumor growth and metastases. Thus, the aims of this proposal are to 1) determine how CTGF affects cell adhesion of pancreatic tumor cells under normoxic and hypoxic conditions using domain specific deletion mutants in cells that are manipulated to express different levels of HIF-1 (Project 3), 2) determine how important CTGF is for 3-D growth and invasion under normoxic and hypoxic conditions, 3) determine how inhibition of CTGF mediated adhesion affects metastatic growth, 4) determine how inhibition of cell adhesion by CTGF affects subcutaneous and orthotopic tumor growth of pancreatic tumor cells and in collaboration with Project 4 head and neck tumors, 5) determine the role of stromal and tumor cell CTGF on tumor growth, 6) determine how effective the combination of CTGF Ab and the new hypoxic specific cytotoxin PR-104 are in controlling pancreatic tumor growth compared to CTGF Ab and gemcitabine (Project 2). In summary, the proposed studies are intended to address an important mechanism by which CTGF affects tumor progression in pancreatic cancers and to determine how effective it is in combination therapy to bring it to the clinic.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Cancer Institute (NCI)
Research Program Projects (P01)
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Stanford University
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