Inhibition of TGF-β signalling in combination with nal-IRI plus 5-Fluorouracil/Leucovorin suppresses invasion and prolongs survival in pancreatic tumour mouse models

Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is one of the most aggressive malignancies. TGF-β is strongly expressed in both the epithelial and stromal compartments of PDAC, and dysregulation of TGF-β signalling is a frequent molecular disturbance in PDAC progression and metastasis. In this study, we investigated whether blockade of TGF-β signalling synergizes with nal-IRI/5-FU/LV, a chemotherapy regimen for malignant pancreatic cancer, in an orthotopic pancreatic tumour mouse model. Compared to nal-IRI/5-FU/LV treatment, combining nal-IRI/5-FU/LV with vactosertib, a TGF-β signalling inhibitor, significantly improved long-term survival rates and effectively suppressed invasion to surrounding tissues. Through RNA-sequencing analysis, we identified that the combination treatment results in robust abrogation of tumour-promoting gene signatures and positive enrichment of tumour-suppressing and apoptotic gene signatures. Particularly, the expression of tumour-suppressing gene Ccdc80 was induced by vactosertib and further induced by vactosertib in combination with nal-IRI/5-FU/LV. Ectopic expression of CCDC80 suppressed migration and colony formation concomitant with decreased expression of epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) markers in pancreatic cancer cells. Collectively, these results indicate that combination treatment of vactosertib with nal-IRI/5-FU/LV improves overall survival rates in a mouse model of pancreatic cancer by suppressing invasion through CCDC80. Therefore, combination therapy of nal-IRI/5-FU/LV with vactosertib could provide clinical benefits to pancreatic cancer patients.

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