Background: Most human pancreatic adenocarcinoma cells do not express somatostatin receptors, and somatostatin does not inhibit the growth of these cancers. We have demonstrated previously that somatostatin inhibits the growth of pancreatic cancers expressing somatostatin receptor subtype-2 (SSTR2), but not receptor-negative cancers. SSTR2 expression may be an important tumor-suppressor pathway that is lost in human pancreatic cancer. We hypothesized that SSTR2 gene transfer would restore the growth-inhibitory response of human pancreatic cancer to somatostatin.
Materials and methods: Palpable human pancreatic adenocarcinoma tumors were established on the backs of nude mice by subcutaneous injection of cultured cells (Panc-1). The animals were divided into 5 groups (n = 10/group). Group I served as an untreated control. Group II received an intramuscular injection of the long-acting somatostatin analogue Sandostatin LAR. Group III received Lac-Z expressing adenovirus via intraperitoneal injection. Group IV received SSTR2 expressing adenovirus via intraperitoneal injection. Group V received SSTR2 expressing adenovirus via intraperitoneal injection and an intramuscular injection of Sandostatin LAR. The rate of tumor growth was assessed with calipers. After 28 days, the animals were anesthetized and exsanguanated, and the tumors were excised and weighed. Plasma somatostatin and octreotide levels were measured by radioimmunoassay. Expression of cell-surface somatostatin-receptor protein and known tumor-suppressor proteins was determined by reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction, Western blot, and immunohistochemistry.
Results: Systemic delivery of SSTR2-expressing adenovirus by intraperitoneal injection resulted in expression of SSTR2 protein in the subcutaneous human pancreatic cancers. Final tumor weight was significantly decreased in the groups expressing SSTR2 receptors compared to the other 3 groups. Treatment with Sandostatin LAR increased plasma octreotide levels as determined by radioimmunoassay, but had no significant effect on tumor growth. Western blot analysis revealed an up-regulation of the cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitors p27 and p16 in the SSTR2 transfected tumors.
Conclusions: Expression of SSTR2 by human pancreatic cancer causes significant slowing of tumor growth by a mechanism independent of exogenous somatostatin. The mechanism may involve up-regulation of known tumor-suppressor proteins. Restoration of SSTR2 gene expression deserves further study as a potential gene-therapy strategy in human pancreatic cancer.