Pancreatic cancer is a devastating disease that is refractory to standard chemotherapies, as demonstrated by the low five-year survival rate of 8%. The objective of this proposal is to assess a novel, highly promising therapeutic for the treatment of pancreatic cancer, employing comprehensive in vitro and preclinical in vivo testing prior to clinical evaluation studies. The sigma-2 (S2) receptor is overexpressed in pancreatic cancer, and small molecule ligands to this receptor localize to these tumors. In addition, PDAC cancer cells rapidly internalize selected sigma-2 ligands. This finding prompted us to explore the possibility of using these ligands to deliver additional therapeutic payloads to PDAC tumor cells via chemical linkage with our ligands. We have successfully used S2 ligands to deliver structurally diverse compounds including both peptides and small molecule therapeutics (classic chemotherapeutics [rapamycin] and peptidomimetics), into the cancer cells both in vitro and in vivo. In each case, the activity profiles of the conjugates were far greater than the isolated components or their equimolar combinations. Based on this delivery concept, we combined the tumor selectivity of the S2 ligand SV119 with a promising drug cargo that induces cell death selectively in PDAC (dm-Erastin), by creating a single small molecule conjugate (SW V-49). We have shown that this conjugate efficiently kills tumor cells in stroma-rich pancreatic cancer models with only limited signs of systemic toxicity. The key tasks of this project involve pharmacology and toxicity drug testing employing PDAC cell lines in vitro (murine and human), primary patient-derived 3D organoid in vitro cultures as well as syngeneic (mouse) and patient-derived xenograft models (PDX) of pancreatic cancer.

Public Health Relevance

Pancreatic adenocarcinoma is the third most lethal cancer and notoriously resistant to standard chemotherapy. We present here a novel strategy for the delivery of a small molecule drug cargo (dm-Erastin) selectively into pancreatic cancer (using the sigma-2 ligand SV119) causing tumor-selective cell death. We propose to comprehensively characterize the novel cancer-selective drug conjugate SW V-49 and evaluate its mode of action and its pharmacologic properties in preclinical models of pancreatic cancer.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Cancer Institute (NCI)
Research Project (R01)
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Drug Discovery and Molecular Pharmacology Study Section (DMP)
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Fu, Yali
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Washington University
Schools of Medicine
Saint Louis
United States
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Pati, Maria Laura; Niso, Mauro; Spitzer, Dirk et al. (2018) Multifunctional thiosemicarbazones and deconstructed analogues as a strategy to study the involvement of metal chelation, Sigma-2 (?2) receptor and P-gp protein in the cytotoxic action: In vitro and in vivo activity in pancreatic tumors. Eur J Med Chem 144:359-371
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