Journal Article

Hedgehog signaling and therapeutics in pancreatic cancer

Fergal C. Kelleher

in Carcinogenesis

Volume 32, issue 4, pages 445-451
Published in print April 2011 | ISSN: 0143-3334
Published online December 2010 | e-ISSN: 1460-2180 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/carcin/bgq280
Hedgehog signaling and therapeutics in pancreatic cancer

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Objective. To conduct a systematic review of the role that the hedgehog signaling pathway has in pancreatic cancer tumorigenesis. Method. PubMed search (2000–2010) and literature based references. Results. Firstly, in 2009 a genetic analysis of pancreatic cancers found that a core set of 12 cellular signaling pathways including hedgehog were genetically altered in 67–100% of cases. Secondly, in vitro and in vivo studies of treatment with cyclopamine (a naturally occurring antagonist of the hedgehog signaling pathway component; Smoothened) has shown that inhibition of hedgehog can abrogate pancreatic cancer metastasis. Thirdly, experimental evidence has demonstrated that sonic hedgehog (Shh) is correlated with desmoplasia in pancreatic cancer. This is important because targeting the Shh pathway potentially may facilitate chemotherapeutic drug delivery as pancreatic cancers tend to have a dense fibrotic stroma that extrinsically compresses the tumor vasculature leading to a hypoperfusing intratumoral circulation. It is probable that patients with locally advanced pancreatic cancer will derive the greatest benefit from treatment with Smoothened antagonists. Fourthly, it has been found that ligand dependent activation by hedgehog occurs in the tumor stromal microenvironment in pancreatic cancer, a paracrine effect on tumorigenesis. Finally, in pancreatic cancer, cells with the CD44+CD24+ESA+ immunophenotype select a population enriched for cancer initiating stem cells. Shh is increased 46-fold in CD44+CD24+ESA+ cells compared with normal pancreatic epithelial cells. Medications that destruct pancreatic cancer initiating stem cells are a potentially novel strategy in cancer treatment. Conclusions. Aberrant hedgehog signaling occurs in pancreatic cancer tumorigenesis and therapeutics that target the transmembrane receptor Smoothened abrogate hedgehog signaling and may improve the outcomes of patients with pancreatic cancer.

Journal Article.  6170 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Clinical Cytogenetics and Molecular Genetics

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