Glucocorticoid receptor (GR) modulates extensive biological and pathological processes including tumor progression through diverse mechanisms. The regulatory effects of dexamethasone (DEX), a synthetic glucocorticoid, as well as its interaction with GR have been recognized beyond hematologic cancers. In the present study, we investigated the anti-cancer efficacy of DEX and the correlation with GR in pancreatic cancer, a most aggressive malignancy threatening human health. The differential levels of GR expression were examined in two human pancreatic cancer cell lines, PANC-1 and SW1990, as well as in xenografts and patient tumor tissues. DEX significantly inhibited colony formation, migration, and tumor growth of PANC-1 cells expressing abundant GR. The underlying mechanisms involved suppression of nuclear factor κB (NF-κB) phosphorylation and down-regulation of epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT), interleukin 6 (IL-6) and vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF). The anti-cancer effects of DEX were partially reversed by GR silencing or combinational administration of GR antagonist, RU486. The dose-dependent efficacy of DEX in tumor growth inhibition was also demonstrated in a GR-positive patient-derived xenograft model along with safety in mice. DEX was less potent, however, in SW1990 cells with poor GR expression. Our findings suggest that DEX effectively inhibits pancreatic tumor growth partially through GR activation. The potential correlation between GR expression and anti-cancer efficacy of DEX may have some clinical implications.Copyright © 2020. Published by Elsevier Inc.
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