Project 2

Novel Target(s) in the Radiosensitization of Pancreatic Cancer

Project Leaders:  Surinder Batra, PhD and Chi Lin, MD

Despite being a staple therapy for pancreatic cancer (PC), Radiation Therapy (RT) provides limited objective clinical response due to inherently high radioresistance (RR) of PC. As the risk of radiation-induced toxicity for PC patients far outweighs the therapeutic benefits attained, effective methods to improve the radiosensitivity of PC are urgently needed. The overall objective of this project is to identify and characterize pathway(s) contributing to RR in PC that can be explored as novel targets for radiosensitization (RS). Preliminary global gene expression analysis suggested novel involvement of cholesterol biosynthesis pathway in the RR in PC cells. Inhibition of cholesterol biosynthesis (CBS) by Zoledronic acid (Zometa) resulted in RS of panel of RR murine and human PC cells. Further, this RS was recapitulated by the inhibition of the small GTPase Rac1, whose activity is controlled by the CBS pathway. Therefore, we seek to delineate mechanisms of RR mediated by cholesterol biosynthesis pathway, and evaluate the potential of Zometa as a radiosensitizer (RST) in preclinical and clinical studies. We propose to exploit the strength of stereotactic radiation therapy and genetically engineered mouse models to comprehensively test the hypothesis that “cholesterol biosynthesis pathway contributes to radioresistance in PC and Zometa inhibits specific pathways consistently implicated in RR and its use will radiosensitize PC both in vitro and in vivo”.