Because of the highly aggressive behaviour, i.e. invasive, disseminative and metastatic properties, the outcome for patients with pancreatic cancer is morbid. A better understanding and interference with the malignant behaviour of pancreatic cancer may provide new directions for treatment. We report here the induction of highly motile and invasive properties in human pancreatic cancer cells by hepatocyte growth factor (HGF) and blockage of these properties by NK4, a newly identified antagonist for HGF. In all of eight human pancreatic cancer cell lines we used (AsPC-1, BxPC-3, H-48N, KP-1N, KP-2, KP-3, MIA PaCa-2 and SUIT-2 cells), the c-Met/HGF receptor was expressed at varying levels. Although weak mitogenic activity of HGF was seen only in SUIT-2 and KP-3 cells, HGF strongly stimulated migration and invasion of these pancreatic cancer cells, except for BxPC-3 and MIA PaCa-2 cells. In contrast, migration and invasion potently induced by HGF in KP-1N, KP-3 and SUIT-2 cells were inhibited by NK4. The invasion of SUIT-2 cells was also potently stimulated with the influence of cocultured pancreatic fibroblasts and by ascitic fluid obtained after pancreatic cancer resection, however, invasiveness of the cancer cells in such conditions was practically abolished by NK4. Consistently, the ascitic fluid in patients who had undergone pancreatic cancer surgery contained high levels of HGF. These findings mean that HGF is probably involved in invasion, dissemination, and metastasis of pancreatic cancer, particularly through tumour-stromal interaction and after resection of the pancreatic cancer. NK4, an effective antagonist of HGF, may prove to have the potential for anti-invasion/metastasis.
Copyright 2001 Cancer Research Campaign.