Mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) is considered to be a major effector of cell growth and proliferation that controls protein synthesis through a large number of downstream targets. We investigated the expression of the phosphatidylinositol 3'-kinase (PI3K)/mTOR signaling pathway in human pancreatic cancer cells and tissues, and the in vivo antitumor effects of the mTOR inhibitor CCI-779 with/without gemcitabine in xenograft models of human pancreatic cancer. We found that the Akt, mTOR and p70 S6 kinase (S6K1) from the PI3K/mTOR signaling pathway were activated in all of the pancreatic cancer cell lines examined. When surgically resected tissue specimens of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma were examined, phosphorylation of Akt, mTOR and S6K1 was detected in 50, 55 and 65% of the specimens, respectively. Although CCI-779 had no additive or synergistic antiproliferative effect when combined with gemcitabine in vitro, it showed significant antitumor activity in the AsPC-1 subcutaneous xenograft model as both a single agent and in combination with gemictabine. Furthermore, in the Suit-2 peritoneal dissemination xenograft model, the combination of these 2 drugs achieved significantly better survival when compared with CCI-779 or gemcitabine alone. These results demonstrate promising activity of the mTOR inhibitor CCI-779 against human pancreatic cancer, and suggest that the inhibition of mTOR signaling can be exploited as a potentially tumor-selective therapeutic strategy.
2005 Wiley-Liss, Inc.