Pancreatic cancer is usually advanced and drug resistant at diagnosis. A potential therapeutic approach outlined here uses nanoparticle (NP)-based drug carriers, which have unique properties that enhance intra-tumor drug exposure and reduce systemic toxicity of encapsulated drugs. Here we report that patients whose pancreatic cancers express elevated levels of Death Receptor 5 (DR5) and its downstream regulators/effectors FLIP, Caspase-8, and FADD had particularly poor prognoses. To take advantage of elevated expression of this pathway, we designed drug-loaded NPs with a surface-conjugated αDR5 antibody (AMG 655). Binding and clustering of the DR5 is a prerequisite for efficient apoptosis initiation, and the αDR5-NPs were indeed found to activate apoptosis in multiple pancreatic cancer models, whereas the free antibody did not. The extent of apoptosis induced by αDR5-NPs was enhanced by down-regulating FLIP, a key modulator of death receptor-mediated activation of caspase-8. Moreover, the DNA topoisomerase-1 inhibitor camptothecin (CPT) down-regulated FLIP in pancreatic cancer models and enhanced apoptosis induced by αDR5-NPs. CPT-loaded αDR5-NPs significantly increased apoptosis and decreased cell viability in vitro in a caspase-8- and FADD-dependent manner consistent with their expected mechanism-of-action. Importantly, CPT-loaded αDR5-NPs markedly reduced tumor growth rates in vivo in established pancreatic tumor models, inducing regressions in one model. These proof-of-concept studies indicate that αDR5-NPs loaded with agents that downregulate or inhibit FLIP are promising candidate agents for the treatment of pancreatic cancer.
Copyright © 2019. Published by Elsevier B.V.