Gemcitabine elaidate and ONC201 combination therapy for inhibiting pancreatic cancer in a KRAS mutated syngeneic mouse model

Virender Kumar, Bharti Sethi, Dalton W. Staller, Prakash Shrestha, Ram I. Mahato

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Approximately 90% of pancreatic cancer (PC) contain KRAS mutations. Mutated KRAS activates the downstream oncogenic PI3K/AKT and MEK signaling pathways and induces drug resistance. However, targeting both pathways with different drugs can also lead to excessive toxicity. ONC201 is a dual PI3K/AKT and MEK pathway inhibitor with an excellent safety profile that targets death receptor 5 (DR5) to induce apoptosis. Gemcitabine (GEM) is a first-line chemotherapy in PC, but it is metabolically unstable and can be stabilized by a prodrug approach. In this study, phospho-Akt, phospho-mTOR, and phospho-ERK protein expressions were evaluated in patient PDAC-tissues (n = 10). We used lipid-gemcitabine (L_GEM) conjugate, which is more stable and enters the cells by passive diffusion. Further, we evaluated the efficacy of L_GEM and ONC201 in PC cells and “KrasLSL-G12D; p53LoxP; Pdx1-CreER (KPC) triple mutant xenograft tumor-bearing mice. PDAC patient tissues showed significantly higher levels of p-AKT (Ser473), p-ERK (T202/T204), and p-mTOR compared to surrounding non-cancerous tissues. ONC201 in combination with L_GEM, showed a superior inhibitory effect on the growth of MIA PaCa-2 cells. In our in-vivo study, we found that ONC201 and L_GEM combination prevented neoplastic proliferation via AKT/ERK blockade to overcome chemoresistance and increased T-cell tumor surveillance. Simultaneous inhibition of the PI3K/AKT and MEK pathways with ONC201 is an attractive approach to potentiate the effect of GEM. Our findings provide insight into rational-directed precision chemo and immunotherapy therapy in PDAC. (Figure presented.)

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number158
JournalCell Death Discovery
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2024

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Cell Biology
  • Cancer Research


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