Actinomycin D induces apoptosis and inhibits growth of pancreatic cancer cells

Int J Cancer. 2000 May 1;86(3):399-407. doi: 10.1002/(sici)1097-0215(20000501)86:3<399::aid-ijc15>;2-g.


Pancreatic cancer cells are usually resistant to apoptosis induced by cytotoxic drugs, by activation of surface receptors such as Fas and TNF receptor or by serum or growth factor withdrawal. Actinomycin D (actD) is an inhibitor of RNA synthesis and acts as a potent inducer of apoptosis in several cell lines. In the present study, we investigated the effects of actD on PANC-1 pancreatic cancer cells. ActD caused apoptosis in PANC-1 cells in a dose-dependent manner, as determined by cell growth assays, DNA laddering and TUNEL assays. Induction of apoptosis correlated with activation of the JNK/SAPK pathway and increased expression of Bax but not Bad or p53. PANC-1 cells were completely resistant to Fas antibody and TNF-alpha. In contrast, TRAIL decreased the growth of PANC-1 cells by 22%. Low concentrations of actD (10 ng/ml) enhanced the cytotoxic effects of all 3 cytokines. EGF, FGF-2 and IGF-I did not protect PANC-1 cells from actD-mediated apoptosis. ActD (10 ng/ml) also inhibited the growth of CAPAN-1 and T3M4 pancreatic cancer cells but not MiaPaCa-2 cells. Our observations suggest that actD may act via JNK/SAPK and Bax to promote apoptosis in PANC-1 cells and that it may inhibit the growth of other pancreatic cancer cell lines.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Antibiotics, Antineoplastic / pharmacology*
  • Antibiotics, Antineoplastic / therapeutic use
  • Apoptosis / drug effects*
  • Carrier Proteins / metabolism
  • Cell Division / drug effects
  • Dactinomycin / pharmacology*
  • Dactinomycin / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins / metabolism
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2*
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53 / metabolism
  • bcl-2-Associated X Protein
  • bcl-Associated Death Protein


  • Antibiotics, Antineoplastic
  • BAD protein, human
  • BAX protein, human
  • Carrier Proteins
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53
  • bcl-2-Associated X Protein
  • bcl-Associated Death Protein
  • Dactinomycin