Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is one of the most lethal human diseases. In recent years, the focus of research, which had been placed mostly on development of therapeutic agents, has shifted gradually towards its prevention. In this context, many epidemiological studies have linked obesity, metabolic syndrome and long-standing type-2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) with increased risk for developing PDAC and other clinically aggressive cancers. Our preliminary studies identifled crosstalk mechanisms between insulin/IGF-1 receptors, G protein-coupled receptor (GPCR) and EGF receptor (EGFR) signaling systems that potently stimulate DNA synthesis, cell proliferation and anchorage-independent growth in human PDAC cells. Mitogenic crosstalk between these signaling systems depended on the function of the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) complex 1 (mTORC1). The biguanide metformin, a widely prescribed drug for treatment of T2DM, negatively regulates mTORC1. Further preliminary studies demonstrate that metformin potently blocks mitogenic signaling in PDAC cells in vitro and that its administration (either orally or intraperitoneally) inhibits the growth of PDAC cells in xenograft mouse models. Recent epidemiological studies linked administration of metformin with reduced risk of PDAC in T2DM patients while administration of insulin or insulin secretagogues appears to exert the opposite effect. Based on all these studies, we posit that metformin targets mitogenic signaling in PDAC via inhibition of the nutrient, energy and growth factor sensor mTORC1. Consequently, our central hypothesis is that the well tolerated and inexpensive anti- diabetic drug metformin inhibits diet-induced promotion of pancreatic cancer. To test this central hypothesis we propose to pursue the following Specific Aims: 1) Identify the mechanism(s) by which metformin inhibits mitogenic signaling in a panel of pancreatic cells representing an vitro model of progression of ductal pancreatic cells to PDAC;2) Characterize the chemopreventive effects of metformin on the progression of PanlNs using the conditional KrasG12D model subjected to standard or a high fat, high calorie diet (HFCD). 3) Characterize the effects of metformin and rapamycin on the progression of PDAC: a novel combinatorial chemopreventive strategy. Underiying mechanisms will be dissected in cell culture systems that mimic the different stages of pancreatic cancer development. State-of-the-art genetically engineered animal models will be utilized to test the central hypothesis of this Project.

Public Health Relevance

We anticipate proving our hypothesis that metformin significantly delays or prevents the tumor-promoting effects ofthe high fat, high calorie diet (HFCD). Since metformin is a FDA-approved drug widely used in the treatment of type 2 diabetes mellitus, our studies will provide the scientiflc rationale for its use in chemoprevention of pancreatic cancer and elucidate its mechanism. Our results may also be transferable to other obesity-related cancer and even non-malignant chronic diseases.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Cancer Institute (NCI)
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University of California Los Angeles
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