12 Scopus citations


Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is an aggressive malignancy with a poor prognosis. Tumor hypoxia plays an active role in promoting tumor progression, malignancy, and resistance to therapy in PDAC. We present evidence that nab-paclitaxel–gemcitabine (NPG) and/or a hypoxic tumor microenvironment (TME) up-regulate heme oxygenase-1 (HO-1), providing a survival advantage for tumors. Using PDAC cells in vitro and a PDAC mouse model, we found that NPG chemotherapy up-regulated expression of HO-1 in PDAC cells and increased its nuclear translocation. Inhibition of HO-1 with ZnPP and SnPP sensitized PDAC cells to NPG-induced cytotoxicity (p < 0.05) and increased apoptosis (p < 0.05). Additionally, HO-1 expression was increased in gemcitabineresistant PDAC cells (p < 0.05), and HO-1 inhibition increased GEM-resistant PDAC sensitivity to NPG (p < 0.05). NPG combined with HO-1 inhibitor inhibited tumor size in an orthotopic model. In parallel, HO-1 inhibition abrogated the influx of macrophages and FoxP3+ cells, while increasing the proportion of CD8+ infiltration in the pancreatic tumors. These effects were mediated primarily by reducing expression of the immunosuppressive cytokine IL-10.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number2264
Issue number9
StatePublished - May 1 2021


  • Chemotherapy
  • Heme oxygenase-1
  • Immune cells
  • PDAC

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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